The plant uses what are reportedly the largest 3D-printed components globally in any commercially operated gas turbine. Image courtesy GE Power Services.
The plant uses what are reportedly the largest 3D-printed components globally in any commercially operated gas turbine. Image courtesy GE Power Services.

3D printed technology has helped run a large power plant run by GE near Berlin, Germany, according to the company.

The Berlin Mitte plant, operated by the power company Vattenfall, is using 3D printed first-stage heat shields and first-stage vanes inside a single GE natural gas turbine. Each part weighs about 4.5 kilograms (9 pounds), and reportedly help the plant run more efficiently and burn less gas. These are the largest 3D printed components globally in any commercially operated gas turbine,’ said Wolfgang Muller, product line leader of GE Power Services’ gas turbine e-fleet. ‘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.’

When operators fire up the machine, these components, which are typically made by casting, reach temperatures as high as 1,000°C and must be cooled off by air. However, this cooling also reduces the turbine’s efficiency.

3D printing allows GE engineers to create much more complex pathways than traditional metal casting, and the structures include intricate air passages that cool the components more efficiently.

According to Muller, when all 50 heat shields on the turbine are 3D printed instead of cast, they could reduce cooling flow by more than 40%. 3D-printed portions of the vane have also led to a 15% reduction in the need for cooling air, the company reports.

This story is reprinted from material from GEwith editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.