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Rolls-Royce invests in additional multi-laser 3D printers for aero-engine production

Rolls-Royce has further expanded its fleet of multi-laser 3D printers for manufacturing aero-engine components.

The firm recently purchased two additional quad-laser SLM 500 systems from SLM Solutions as part of the pre-production ramp-up for its Pearl 10X engine. 

The systems will be used to print complex combustor tiles that will help achieve valuable weight and emission reduction, which will ultimately contribute to the overall 5% increase in efficiency for the Pearl 10X compared to its predecessor. The engine is the most powerful member of the established Pearl family, and has been designed specifically for the Dassault Falcon 10X, a highly advanced jet aircraft.

With more than 3,600 business jets powered by Rolls-Royce engines in service, the firm remains the world’s leading engine supplier in the business jet market. 

Richard Mellor, Rolls-Royce Chief Manufacturing Engineer for Additive Layer Manufacturing, says “Additive layer manufacturing enables the delivery of complex high-performing assemblies which cannot be manufactured using conventional techniques. For example, these combustor tiles include cooling holes which turn the air through 180 degrees maximising efficiency whilst reducing emissions. This repeat order reflects the close and successful relationship between the Rolls-Royce and SLM teams.”

The industrialisation of additive manufacturing within the broader civil aviation sector is expected to gather momentum in the coming periods with the AMPOWER Report 2022 forecasting system sales will triple to over EUR 250 million by 2026. 

“Having a high-profile company such as Rolls-Royce as a returning customer is really gratifying,” comments Sam O’Leary, CEO of SLM Solutions. “We are committed to forging relationships like these with our team of experts every step of the way, ensuring our customers’ success through close collaboration.”

The SLM500 can integrate lasers independently or in parallel to increase build rates by 90% over twin laser configurations. Machine operator and powder are separated through a closed-loop powder handling strategy with an automated powder sieve and supply.

Designed for serial production, the exchangeable build cylinder enables the shortest possible fire-to-fire times, reducing downtimes of the machine to a minimum.