Only a year ago the German gas turbine power plant began changing some of the turbine components with 3D printed ones. These parts where constructed by General Electric and they have clear advantages compared the conventionally produced parts.
The new 3D printed parts are used as first-stage heat shields and first-stage vanes in the GE natural gas turbine. The additive manufactured parts should help the power plant to run more smoothly and save lots of energy. The parts are not small – they weight about 4.5 kg each.
3D printing is often thought of in terms of very small, complex components. We’re proving now that actually, you can commercially manufacture large pieces for turbines.
The 3D printed parts help to get a better overall efficiency of the power plant, but how do they do this? The turbine gets heated up to 1000 degrees and cooling air is blown through it to prevent parts from getting damaged by the immense heat. Usually the cooler part is casted and because of that the coolant tunnels are created with the casting process in mind.
With 3D printing there are more possibilities for the positioning and form of the coolant tunnel and so it’s possible to use 40% less cooling air. With the new parts built in the power plant Berlin Mitte it is actually one of the most modern of its kind. But nearly all new build power plants don’t use 3D printing because they are not familiar with the technology it or haven’t tested it thoroughly. According to GE that should change because by implementing the additive manufactured parts Berlin Mitte could save up to 3 Million Dollar per year.