Appliance-turned-technology firm General Electric has achieved its goal of '3D printing' a working RC jet engine with a turbine that achieves 33,000 rotations per minute.

Small enough to fit in a backpack, the engine built by a team of technicians, machinists and engineers at the additive development centre outside Cincinnati in the US proves that 3D printing is a viable production tool for industrial, agile objects. It is part of a wider project to bring additive manufacturing into jet part production on an industrial scale that has been ongoing for several years.

3D printing - not just for hobbyists? iStock/YuriArcurs
3D printing - not just for hobbyists? iStock/YuriArcurs

The engine - consisting of twelve separate parts - was printed on an EOS M270 industrial 3D printer which can melt metals including cobalt chrome, nickel, titanium and stainless steel. The miniature jet turbine engine is GE's first functioning prototype.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers at an Australian university, along with its spinoff company, used 3D printing to make two metal jet engines that, while only proof-of-concept designs have all the working parts of a functioning gas turbine engine.

The two engines, created by Monash University and its spinoff Amaero Engineering, are garnering a lot of attention from leading aeronautics companies. Plane manufacturers Airbus, Boeing and defence contractor Raytheon are lining up at the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing in Melbourne to develop new components with 3D printing.

Airbus used 3D printing rather than traditional manufacturing to speed up its deliveries with a Stratasys printer.