Small Jet Engine Model From Students Who Think Big

We love to highlight great engineering student projects at Hackaday. We also love environment-sensing microcontrollers, 3D printing, and jet engines. The X-Plorer 1 by JetX Engineering checks all the boxes.

This engineering student exercise took its members through the development process of a jet engine. Starting from a set of requirements to meet, they designed their engine and analyzed it in software before embarking on physical model assembly. An engine monitoring system was developed in parallel and integrated into the model. These embedded sensors gave performance feedback, and armed with data the team iterated though ideas to improve their design. It’s a shame the X-Plorer 1 model had to stop short of actual combustion. The realities of 3D printed plastic meant airflow for the model came from external compressed air and not from burning fuel.

Also worth noting are the people behind this project. JetX Engineering describe themselves as an University of Glasgow student club for jet engine enthusiasts, but they act less like a casual gathering of friends and more like an aerospace engineering firm. The ability of this group to organize and execute on this project, including finding sponsors to fund it, are skills difficult to teach in a classroom and even more difficult to test with an exam.

After X-Plorer 1, the group has launched two new project teams X-Plorer 2 and Kronos. They are also working to expand to other universities with the ambition of launching competitions between student teams. That would be exciting and we wish them success.

We have many more stories for jet engine enthusiasts. Do you prefer models that focus less on engineering and more on looking like real engines? You’ll like this motor driven model of a GEnx. Or perhaps you prefer to build functional fuel-burning jet engines? People are happy to sell you plans. Or watch somebody ride a jet-propelled bicycle. (Is he even wearing a helmet?)

[Thanks to George @ 3DHubs for spreading the word on JetX.]

21 thoughts on “Small Jet Engine Model From Students Who Think Big

  1. I find it ridiculous that they never actually had the components made out of metal and made a functional engine. I realize their reason was “traditional manufacturing costs” but once you make it out of plastic you can move to SLM with ease. This is clearly just to promote one stupid 3d printing company and nothing else. <:(

    1. Except it’s written by students (and likely submitted as part of a coursework for university). They mention briefly what printer they used but that’s pretty much it. The whole site is about iterative design, which is exactly where 3D printing fits nicely into current industry practices.

      While this i ‘oh we used a 3D printer’ and ‘not a hack’ as so many love to point out here, it’s by no way a 3D printer company pushing what they can do.

    2. “you can move to SLM with ease.”

      From the perspective of CAD data you’re right. But there’s also the cost factor in a cost-constrained college student project. Keep in mind it’s not just any metal: it has to be metal that can withstand the temperature and pressure of a jet engine combustion chamber. That’s not cheap.

      A valuable part of being a good engineer is making decisions based on cost-effectiveness. JetX has made their decision. You are free to disagree, but calling it ‘ridiculous’ might be too harsh.

      1. Yeah, this would cost a fortune to make real. SLM just is not clean enough for this and it would still have to be machined to finish. If you could even print it. The hot end of the existing mini turbine engines are inconel if I remember right. Cast or forged, X-Rayed, and then machined.

  2. “The ability of this group to organize and execute on this project, including finding sponsors to fund it, are skills difficult to teach in a classroom and even more difficult to test with an exam.”

    Some sink-or-swim business schools might do that.

      1. Don’t get too hung up on the fundraising, that’s just one part of the many complexities the team had to master in order to successfully complete an extracurricular project of this scale. Key word: complete. I look at my workshop full of half-finished projects and I’m impressed by JetX.

  3. What the heck is this? The thermal/mass transport through a “real” jet engine is highly complex. This physical model jet engine has all the parts moving mass at temperatures completely different (below) those of a real engine. You MAY be able to compensate for this in terms of measurements with gross assumptions, but WHY? You will get far better results just simulating the engine in a computer. Am I missing something here? Or is this all about “3D Printing” hype and not really modelling a jet engine?

    1. You’re right the model couldn’t get to the more complex parts of a real jet engine. Such as the dynamics of the combustion chamber some aerospace engineers called “keeping a match lit while standing in a hurricane.”

      But that doesn’t mean the whole project is pointless. To the extent that they can afford, the student team got to see firsthand that physical realities are always different from the software simulation. They learned how to use data from one to feed into the other and back again in iterative design. 3D printing made the latter part possible with its low cost and fast turnaround time, but it was a tool towards the goal and not the goal itself.

      1. “keeping a match lit while standing in a hurricane.”
        Having maintained several gas turbine systems, over many years, the above is nothing compared to “Hysteresis” due to rpm x number of blades. Designs are pretty good for bleed air, but the vibration is a killer.

    2. Exactly right. A working model engine has different materials and manufafturing process than a large full-size engine as would power an airliner or fighter. And anyone can print off a 3D model of a jet engine, there are some nice ones on Thingiverse.
      I believe the students would have learned a lot more by following an actual guide to building a model jet engine from scratch such as Thomas Kamps’ book ‘JET ENGINES’.published 1995. In it, his compressor is made from a motorcycle turbocharger compressor however it also shows a handmade plywood compressor wrapped with carbon fibre yarn, made by another pioneer turbine builder Kurt Schreckling. That’s something that works at a model scale but would not be used for a fullsize engine.

  4. An improvement to the “Jetex” Rockets in multiple dimensions of study. Interesting information and links. . I like the idea of using printable components for the purported functional jet engine. There are functional models that maybe can be improved on with different materials or cost brought down with suitable PM’s I’m guessing in relation to investment in use.

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