GE Aviation is planning a $105-million capital improvement program to expand ceramic-matrix composites production at Asheville, N.C., a project it noted is a response to rising demand for CMCs in turbofan engines. The expansion will lead to 131 new jobs at the five-year-old plant, and GE Aviation also plans to add 15 more position at a plant in West Jefferson, N.C.
The Asheville plant was a $125-million development that start up in 2014, and claimed by GE Aviation as the first operation in the world to produce CMC materials on a mass-production scale.
The plant produces stationary parts for LEAP-1B turbofan engines, produced by GE Aviation in its role as a partner in the CFM International joint venture.
CMCs are formed by fixing silicon-carbide (SiC) ceramic fibers in a SiC matrix, and then coated with proprietary ceramic material. In a jet engine, including the LEAP series as well as the GE9X, CMCs can reduce operating and maintenance costs, as well as fuel consumption.
GE Aviation reported that demand for CMCs is forecast to grow by 10X over the next decade based on rising jet-engine production rates. Each LEAP engine has 18 CMC turbine shrouds — stationary parts in the high-pressure turbine that direct air and ensure turbine blade efficiency. CMCs also are used in the combustor and high-pressure turbine section of the GE9X engine, now in development.
"We are very pleased to continue expanding our GE Aviation business in Asheville," stated Michael Meguiar, Asheville Plant Leader. "We continue to build on a great workforce, culture, and community that supports advanced manufacturing jobs in Western North Carolina. This merging of technology and a strong, creative workforce is the foundation of our success. … I'm very proud of the technology advances and the continued competitiveness that our teams have been able to demonstrate."