While the term “disruptive technology” is used way too often to describe energy innovations, 3D printing has the potential to make significant manufacturing and cost savings contributions to the energy industry. Researchers have used 3D printing technology to print an entire jet engine (pictured).
NASA is exploring the use of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, for turbine and injector components that present welding and other fabrication challenges. GE is using the technology for printing turbine blades and fuel nozzles, and even performed test flights with 3D printed parts. GE’s new GE9X engines may use addditive manufacturing for the low pressure turbine blades made from titanium aluminide.
Beyond turbines, Australian researchers are close to commercializing 3D-printable solar panels which could be printed directly onto a variety of surfaces, including electronics, fabrics and rooftops. Not only does 3D printing have the potential to reduce manufacturing costs, but the using additive manufacturing lowers energy costs as well.