German engineering firm Siemens has successfully completed the first full load engine testing for its new 3D printed gas turbine blades.

The firm carried out the testing of the new gas turbine blades which were produced using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology, also known as 3D printing, at its facility in the industrial gas turbine factory in Lincoln, UK.

For the testing, Siemens used the blades manufactured at its 3D printing facility at Materials Solutions, which it acquired in earlier.

The blades were installed in a Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine with 13MW capacity.

During testing, Siemens validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design under full-load engine conditions at 13,000 revolutions per minutes and temperatures above 1,250 Celsius.

It also tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry, and also produced using AM technology.

Siemens said that the advanced blade design provides improved cooling, which would increase overall efficiency of the gas turbines.

Siemens Power and Gas Division CEO Willi Meixner said: "This is a breakthrough success for the use of Additive Manufacturing in the power generation field, which is one of the most challenging applications for this technology.”

Manufactured using high performing polycrystalline nickel superalloy, the AM turbine blades are designed to endure high pressure, hot temperatures and the rotational forces of the turbine's high speed operation.

Meixner added: "This exciting technology is changing the way we manufacture by reducing the lead time for prototype development up to 90%.

"We can accelerate the development of new gas turbine designs with an increased efficiency and availability and can bring these advancements faster to our customers."

According to the company, the each 3D printed gas turbine blade can travel at over 1,600km/h.

Image: Siemens’ new gas turbine blades produced using additive manufacturing technology. Photo: courtesy of Siemens AG.