A sailor has used the skills taught to him as a Royal Navy engineer to build his own miniature jet engine.
Trainee marine engineer Ryan Bruno used 3D printing technology to produce the parts – then called on his three years of training to produce the tiny working gas turbine.
Ryan spent five years as a Royal Marine with 43 Commando, who safeguard the nation’s nuclear deterrent, and 1 Assault Group (recently renamed 47 Commando).
It was his time working on landing craft with the latter – side-by-side with RN engineers who maintain the vessels – which prompted the green beret to switch careers.
He was selected for the Navy’s fast-track advanced apprentice scheme and has just completed 18 months’ training at HMS Sultan in Gosport as a leading engineer specialising in gas turbines and diesel engines.
That course, Ryan’s studies in thermodynamics (heat and its relation with energy) and a fascination in the possibilities presented by 3D printing, inspired the sailor to attempt to build his own turbine.
The 27-year-old from Deal in Kent used refractory (fire resistant) concrete, tweaking the designs of Swedish inventor Axel Borg, and made use of 3D design software which he taught himself to use.
The result is a nine-inch-long (23cm) working jet engine which starts up aided by an air compressor and is built entirely with the materials and tools Ryan had access to – “slightly different to what had been used previously to make these engines,” he says.
“Building the gas turbine was an interesting project ¬- a great learning experience which allowed me to learn more about 3D computer-aided design and explore new materials and processes.
“It also highlights how 3D printing technology provides the ability to produce complicated functioning components in your own home.
“The knowledge and hand skills gained at Sultan also enabled me to understand how to construct it and fault find, enabling the project to run smoothly.”
As things stand, the mini jet is not a practical engine, rather a demonstrator first step. There’s little thrust due to the materials used, and the nozzle guide vanes – which direct the flow of air on to the turbine blades – only have a life span of about 45 minutes.
So when he gets the chance, Ryan hopes to re-build his engine using metals – and include a few improvements to boot.
For now, however, the leading hand is focusing on his first job as a qualified marine engineer – maintaining the very same landing craft he used to operate when he joins Britain’s flagship, assault ship HMS Albion, based in Plymouth.
Pictures by Petty Officer (Photographer) Nicola Harper