GE Aviation (Evendale, OH, US) has spent more than US$1.5 billion to bring to market ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) that can be mass produced. The quantity of CMC raw material GE uses has increased twenty-fold in the past decade alone. By 2020, GE Aviation expects to have established the first vertically integrated CMC supply chain in the US, with roughly 750 employees producing up to 20,000 kg/yr of CMC prepreg and 10,000 kg/yr of SiC fiber.
More than 20 years in the making, this CMC technology originated at GE’s Global Research Center (GRC, Niskayuna, NY, US), was incubated at its CMC Lean Lab and FastWorks Lab (Evendale, OH, US), and was scaled up at the GE CMC low-rate initial production (LRIP) center (Newark, DE, US). As the company has foreseen the future of advanced manufacturing and invested heavily in 3D printing and digital thread/digital twin/Big Data technology, it has also laid a robust foundation for exploiting advanced CMCs’ potential to deliver the increased performance, reduced weight and emissions and lower operating cost being demanded for the jet engines that will power tomorrow’s aircraft.