Compared to conventional manufacturing processes, additive manufacturing offers a degree of freedom that has the potential to revolutionize the turbine components supply chain. Additive manufacturing facilitates the design and manufacture of highly complex components in high performance materials with features that cannot currently be realized with other processes. In addition, shorter development and manufacturing lead-times are possible due to the flexibility of 3D based processing and the absence of expensive, complicated molds or dies.

Having been confined for many years to rapid prototyping or R&D applications, additive manufacturing is now making the move to the factory floor. However, a dearth of manufacturing experience makes the development effort and risk of costly mistakes a deterrent for many organizations that would otherwise be interested in exploring the benefits of additive manufacturing.

A former manufacturer of industrial gas turbines recently established an additive manufacturing workshop designed to deliver highly complex engine-ready components that can contribute to increased performance of the gas turbine. A strong emphasis on process validation and implementation of the organization’s best practice Lean and Quality methodologies has laid solid foundations for a highly capable manufacturing environment.

This paper describes the approach taken to ensure that the workshop achieves a high level of operational excellence. Process development topics explored in the paper include the following:

• Planning of process flow and cell layout to permit the maximum lean performance

• Strategy used to determine machine specification and selection method.

• Assessment of process capability

• Influence of design for manufacture on process efficiency and product quality

• Experience gained during actual production of first commercial components

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