German company Siemens has completed full load engine tests for its 3D printed gas turbine blades at the company’s testing facility in Lincoln, UK.

The blades have been developed using additive manufacturing (AM) technology. During testing, multiple AM printed blades were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250°C.

At full load, each of these turbine blades can travel at a speed of more than 1,600km/h, while carrying 11t. They are also surrounded by gas at 1,250°C and cooled by air at more than 400°C.

The company has also tested a new blade design, which has a completely revised and enhanced internal cooling geometry and is also produced using AM technology

Siemens' power and gas division chief executive officer (CEO) Willi Meixner said: “This is a breakthrough success for the use of AM in the power generation field, which is one of the most challenging applications for this technology.

"We can accelerate the development of new gas turbine designs with an increased efficiency and availability."

“AM is one of our main pillars in our digitalisation strategy.”

Known as 3D printing, AM is a process that builds parts layer-by-layer from sliced computer-aided design (CAD) models to create solid objects.

Meixner added: “This exciting technology is changing the way we manufacture by reducing the lead time for prototype development up to 90%.

“Siemens is a pioneer in AM. We can accelerate the development of new gas turbine designs with an increased efficiency and availability and can bring these advancements faster to our customers.

“This new flexibility in manufacturing also allows Siemens to develop closer to the customer's requirements and also to provide spare parts on demand.”

The 3D printed blades were deployed on a Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine, which has an installed capacity of 13MW. Developed out of a powder of high-performing polycrystalline nickel super-alloy, AM turbine blades endure high-pressure, hot temperatures, and rotational forces of high-speed operation.

Image: The 3D printed blades had to endure 13,000 revolutions every minute and temperatures beyond 1,250 degrees Celsius. Photo: courtesy of Siemens.