GE Aviation has transformed its wartime jet engine plant into a state-of-the-art facility with the ability to design and test lightweight composite materials for commercial jet engines of the future. In the process, the company has invested $144 million in 2014-2015 and says it will invest another $356 million by 2020.
Plant Manager Tim Meyers told reporters Tuesday, "The vision here is trying to make a campus that's collaborative, innovative, full of technology that's testing our latest engines, that's developing our latest materials."
The latest materials involve CMCs, or ceramic matrix composites. They are lighter than metal and can take extreme heat. This way the airplane can be more fuel efficient since the engine doesn't have to spend as much time cooling itself.
The percentage of CMCs in GE jet engines is still very small because there are thousands of parts. But there will be five different CMC parts in the GE9x (due out in 2018) including parts in the compressor (inner and outer liner), high-pressure turbine (stage 1 and 2 nozzles and stage 1 shrouds). There is one CMC part in the LEAP engine (the second newest engine) and none before that.
The CMC FastWorks Lab is researching and developing additional applications.
The Evendale campus now has the ability to test separate sections of what it builds. The A20 cell focuses on the combustor, the engine part where fuel is ignited and creates thrust. According to manager Phil Petrocelli, the test cell "is very impressive and unique with pressure and temperature capable of getting to 1500°F and 1,000 psi, at an airflow of 120 pounds a second."
In the control room, test engineers and aircraft representatives can watch the tests. And customers can get data, including information from 500 test articles.
GE Aviation and its partner companies have 36,000 engines in service today. That is expected to grow to 46,000 by 2020.
More than 7,000 people work at GE Aviation in Greater Cincinnati, with another 2,000 employees in Dayton and Peebles.
According to GE Aviation, annual revenues have more than tripled, exceeding $25 billion in the past 20 years.