Future GE Aviation engines to use latest technologies

GE Aviation plans to make an announcement in the next 60 to 90 days about opening a production site for ceramic matrix composites, President and Chief Executive Officer David Joyce told reporters at a roundtable Friday morning in suburban Cincinnati.

Composites fuse multiple materials together to make different properties. Ceramic matrix composites weave together fibers, strengthened with resins that are baked into heat resistant parts.

The jet engine maker has invested in five plant expansions since 2008, including three facilities opening this year in Alabama, Mississippi and Ohio. The plant in Alabama is for engine components. The one in Mississippi, opening next week, is to make carbon fiber composites. This summer in Dayton a research center opens.

A new composites plant would mark the sixth facility expansion in about as many years.

Joyce did not say more, and did not confirm or not if Ohio was in the running for the new manufacturing facility.

Ceramic composite materials were recently tested on a military research engine in partnership with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he said. Engine components made of ceramic composites held up to the highest temperatures ever run at GE Aviation, and officials say in any jet engine ever.

The question now is the manufacturing readiness of ceramic composites for supplies.

“The next phase for us is to announce a production site for composites,” Joyce said.

GE Aviation’s commercial engine studies are incorporating new technology innovations including composites and additive manufacturing.

New engines still under development, including the LEAP and GE9X, will be lighter, and withstand greater air pressure and hotter temperatures, improving fuel burn and efficiency.

LEAP engines will have fuel nozzles made from the additive manufacturing process, known as 3-D manufacturing, Joyce said. GE Aviation acquired 3-D technology in 2012 by purchasing local companies in their backyard — Morris Technologies and Rapid Quality Manufacturing with locations in Sharonville and West Chester Twp.

3-D printing is the process of creating solid objects from a digital file by printing thin layers of material one on top of another.

The LEAP engine is a product of the joint venture CFM International between GE and French company Snecma. Officials from CFM gave a plant tour Thursday of their West Chester Twp. headquarters.

LEAP will be GE Aviation’s next big commercial product to enter service in 2016, and the first commercial engine to contain ceramic matrix composite parts, Joyce said.

GE9X will not be just the next version of GE Aviation’s GE90 engine on the market now; he said there will be a big technology change.

The Boeing Co. announced last month it has selected GE Aviation and the future GE9X engine to be the sole engine supplier to the next generation 777 airplane. The plane, and engine, isn’t expected to hit the market until the latter part of this decade.

“We allowed the technology in the engine to speak for itself,” Joyce said

GE Aviation has a total approximately 8,600 employees in the Cincinnati-Dayton region.

Key quotes

From David Joyce, president and CEO, GE Aviation, on Friday at the Evendale headquarters

— On impact of Boeing 787 grounding and battery tests:

“We are staying right on track with our production schedule of engines…It hasn’t had that big of an impact on us at all.”

— On additive manufacturing:

“We want to take it out of the model shop and get it into the production shop as quickly as we can. The sooner we can get on the journey, the better.”

— On the GE9X engine study program:

“It really is a big technology change…This is a very, very sophisticated engine.”

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