GE Aviation announced on Oct. 27 that it is investing more than $200 million to create adjacent factories in Huntsville, Ala. to mass-produce silicon carbide (SiC) materials used to manufacture ceramic matrix composite components (CMCs) for jet engines and land-based gas turbines.
Construction of the two plants will begin at about mid-2016 and production will begin in 2018. When the factories are operational they are expected to employ up to 300 people.
“Establishing the new GE factories in Alabama is a very significant step in developing the supply chain we need in order to produce CMC components in large volume,” Sanjay Correa, Vice resident, CMC Program at GE Aviation said.
One plant will produce silicon carbide ceramic fiber. It will be the first such operation in the United States. Today, the only large-scale SiC ceramic fiber factory in the world is operated by NGS Advanced Fibers in Japan, which is a joint company of Nippon Carbon, GE, and Safran of France. The adjacent GE factory will use the SiC ceramic fiber to produce the unidirectional CMC tape necessary to fabricate CMC components.
This investment is a continuation of the company’s investment in the state. Since 2013, GE Aviation has also invested more than $100 million in a 300,000-square-foot factory in Auburn where the company is engaged in jet engine component manufacturing (super-alloy machined parts) as well as establishing the world’s highest-volume additive manufacturing center.
Over the past year, the Auburn plant has been installing and qualifying additive manufacturing capability, including more than a dozen laser melting machines. Fuel nozzles will be the first components to be built using additive processes for the best-selling LEAP engine by CFM International. It marks the first time such a complex component will be manufactured using additive technology.