GE Aviation has started construction of a new plant in Asheville, N.C., to produce ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials. As previously announced, the $125-million project will manufacture stationary parts for the LEAP turbofan engines produced by CFM International, a joint venture of GE Aviation and Snecma, a French aircraft engine manufacturer.
CMCs are comprised of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin, produced by a proprietary thermal process, followed by a proprietary coating process. They offer low density, high hardness, and excellent thermal and chemical resistance.
The new, 170,000-sq.ft. plant will be the first in the world to mass-produce CMC engine parts, starting production in 2014. GE has said the plant will employ more than 340 people within five years of start-up.
At Asheville, GE Aviation will be producing a high-pressure turbine shroud -- a stationary ring that encircles the moving blades in the second stage of the high-pressure turbine; it will be the first commercial application of CMCs for such parts. The LEAP engine will debut in 2016 in several commercial jets, including the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX.
CMC components for the hot section of jet engines are described as “a significant technology breakthrough for GE and the jet propulsion industry. GE stated it expects to introduce more CMC components in future engine development programs.
Each LEAP engine will include 18 CMC turbine shrouds, which GE Aviation noted represents a considerable volume of orders for the new Asheville plant. To date CFM Internationalhas orders and commitments for more than 5,200 LEAP engines.
The current workforce at GE Aviation's machining operation in Asheville will be transitioned to the CMC components plant.