GE Aviation pursuing advanced manufacturing in North Carolina
GE Aviation, a global leader in jet engine and aircraft system production, has plans to break ground this year on an advanced composite component factory near Asheville in Western North Carolina.
The new 125,000-square-foot facility (next to an existing GE Aviation machining plant) would produce engine components made of advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials.
GE could begin hiring at the new CMC components plant as early as 2014. Within five years, the workforce at the plant would be expected to grow to more than 340 people.
The new facility would be part of a larger commitment by GE Aviation to invest $195 million across its North Carolina operations through 2017. GE Aviation has more than 1,300 employees in North Carolina at sites in Durham, West Jefferson, Wilmington, and Asheville. Overall, the new CMC facility, combined with plant and equipment upgrades at existing sites across North Carolina, could create 240 additional GE jobs by 2017.
The workforce (290 employees) at GE Aviation's current machining operation in Asheville would gradually transition to the CMC components plant. Over the next decade, the current machining work at the Asheville shop could be transitioned to other GE facilities.
The new CMC factory in Asheville – which would be unique in the jet propulsion industry – is subject to final approvals of incentives from the State of North Carolina.
The introduction of CMC components into the hot section of GE jet engines represents a significant technology breakthrough for GE and the jet propulsion industry. CMCs are made of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin, manufactured through a highly sophisticated process and further enhanced with proprietary coatings.
GE Aviation views CMCs as a differentiator for its next-generation aircraft engines. The ultra-lightweight CMC material supports extremely high temperatures in the high-pressure turbine. CMC benefits include: reduced weight, enhanced performance and improved durability that provides longer time on wing, translating into lower fuel and maintenance costs for customers.
“GE has been investing in CMC technology for decades, and we are mastering the manufacturing of CMCs at our laboratory in Delaware. Asheville would be our first factory involved in the mass production of CMC components,” said David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation. “We believe the future Asheville plant will be on the ground floor of a new technology that will change aviation.”
The specific CMC component to be built in the new Asheville facility is a high-pressure turbine shroud, a stationery component that directs exhaust gases through the high-pressure turbine. More importantly, this CMC component will be on the best-selling LEAP jet engine, being developed by CFM International, a joint company of GE and Snecma (SAFRAN) of France. The LEAP engine, which will enter airline service in 2016, will power the new Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC (China) C919 aircraft.
Remarkably, CFM to date has logged total orders and commitments for more than 4,500 LEAP engines. There will be 18 CMC turbine shrouds in every LEAP engine produced, thus setting the stage for high, long-term production volume at the Asheville plant.
The number of CMC components inside GE jet engines will continue to grow with each new product introduction.
GE worked closely with the North Carolina Department of Commerce (NCDC) to secure the proposed Asheville location and investments in existing facilities. The NCDC, along with several local agencies (the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Buncombe County, City of Asheville, Ashe County, the Golden Leaf Foundation, the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, and Wilmington Business Development) have provided technical support and incentives to ensure a smooth and successful start-up.
To prepare for the new factory, GE would partner with Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (ABTCC). The training program at ABTCC would allow current and prospective employees to train in a hands-on environment with state-of- the- art machinery.
The GE Aviation facility in Durham assembles commercial jet engines. The proposed investment would allow for increased capacity and new plant and equipment for the next generation of commercial engines.
Proposed investment in the West Jefferson facility, which currently does machining of rotating parts, will also allow for increased capacity as it assumes additional machining work. The facility is poised for an 80,000-square-foot expansion which would come with an additional 105 jobs by 2017.
The 540,000-square-foot facility in Wilmington will continue to manufacture medium to large rotating hardware. The planned investment would allow for the purchase of next- generation equipment for the plant.
GE develops and produces the world's most advanced composite components for jet engines. All development of composite components will remain in Newark, Delaware. Asheville joins several other GE facilities such as Batesville, Mississippi, Ellisville, Mississippi and Baltimore, Maryland that produce composite components. In addition to shrouds, Asheville would have capacity to take on additional component work when new technologies are developed.
GE Aviation has the largest and fastest-growing installed base of jet engines in commercial aviation and a global services network to support them. GE Aviation employs approximately 40,000 people and operates more than 80 facilities around the world.
The company invests $1 billion annually in jet propulsion research and development programs. This long tradition of commitment to new technology has helped GE maintains its leadership position within the industry with a proud list of "firsts" in both military and commercial jet propulsion, tracing back to 1942 with America's first jet engine.
Press release issued by GE Aircraft Engines on June 17, 2013
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