Rolls Royce is going to 3D print aircraft engines

The Merlin Project is a €7,120,000 EU research project that will be conducted by Rolls Royce in conjunction with other aircraft engine manufacturers. The aim of the project is to over the course of three years explore the use of 3D printing to make aircraft engines in order to reduce their enviornmental impact.  The project aims to use 3D printing “to allow environmental benefits including near 100% material utilisation, current buy to fly ratios result in massive amounts of waste, no toxic chemical usage and no tooling costs, to impact the manufacture of future aero engine components. All of these factors will drastically reduce emissions across the life-cycle of the parts. …. Light-weighting, and the performance improvement of parts will result in reduced fuel consumption and reduced emissions….Impacts will include the development of high value, disruptive AM technologies capable of step changes in performance which will safeguard EU companies in the high value aero engine manufacturing field. AM will significantly reduce waste in an industry where materials require massive amounts of energy and toxic chemicals, in-process toxic chemical usage will be massively reduced, and emissions will drop because of the reduced amount of material involved.”

Merlin is a mythical name in the annals of Roll Royce. The 1930”s Merlin engine powered the Spitfire and was one of the things that helped win the Battle of Britain. By giving this project the same name Rolls Royce shows us that it is more than serious about 3D printing aircraft engines. This is yet another huge step for direct digital manufacturing. The project will start on January 1st 2011. So before its evan began, 2011 is turning out to be a good year for 3D printing!

Image is of the original Rolls Royce Merlin engine, from Wikipedia.