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Textron Aviation Started Flight Testing an Aircraft with a 3D Printed Engine

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A turboprop Catalyst is a powertrain of the new single-engine business jet Beechcraft Denali. The Catalyst was developed by General Electric with the extensive usage of 3D printing. Additive technologies helped to unite 855 parts into 12 components.

It was the first flight for the Beechcraft Denali, but not the first for the Catalyst, since first test flights of the engine started in September 2021 inside the dual-motor flying lab named Beechcraft King Air 350. The first Denali flight with the native engine happened on November 23rd 2021 and took almost 3 hours. The maximum altitude was 4,700 meters and it reached the speed of 330 km/h. In practice it will be able to carry one pilot and four passengers while travelling a distance of up to 2,500 kilometers at the cruising speed of 530 km/h.  

The main feature of this new aircraft is it being highly economic. With the help of new powertrain it managed to up the fuel efficiency by 20% compared to similarly sized solutions. It’s also worth noting that the GE Catalyst engine is the first turboprop powertrain in the world made with such an extensive usage of 3D printed components. Due to that fact, the amount of components was significantly reduced, as well as its weight. while simultaneously improving fuel economy and reliability. The engine with the power of 1,300 hp works alongside a full authority digital engine (or electronics) control (FADEC) system. It’s equipped with a five-blade propeller made of composite materials  with reversible pitch and ice protection

Note: Composite materials are also often used for weight reduction. For example, the prints produced using Anisoprint Composer A3, are 2 times stronger and lighter than aluminum. 

The Catalyst engines were developed and manufactured with the help of design bureaus located in Munich and Warsaw, as well as Prague-based GE Aviation Czech and Italian Avio Aero plants. Sixteen test samples did more than 2,5000 hours  in test cells and completed four certification tests.

Catalyst is the first turboprop engine fully designed and manufactured in Europe in last 50 years. This will allow GE to offer the engines to military aircraft manufacturers without considering the ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulation, American regime covering export of the military technologies). The certification of Beechcraft Denali business jet is scheduled to be finished in 2023.

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