Additive manufacturing is focus of turbomachinery manufacturing conference

A talk at this year's ICTM Conference ahowed that a further key to boosting productivity will be additive manufacturing.

Mar 15th, 2019
Content Dam Ils Online Articles 2019 03 Turbomachinery Additive Manufacturing 2

Around 200turbomachinery manufacturers, software developers, tool manufacturers, researchers, machine makers, and plant engineering companies from 18 countries came together at the 5th Conference of the ICTM International Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing, which was held February 6-7, 2019, in Aachen, Germany, to discuss new trends with experts from industries that included aviation and power generation. The event is organized by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (Fraunhofer IPT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (Fraunhofer ILT), both of which also participate in the conference as research partners and are located in Aachen.

The presentations at the conference covered a wide range of topics, including digitalization, production, material selection, and the future of turbomachinery manufacturing. The talk here, however, was no longer of a gulf between ecological and economic concerns, but rather the quest to attain "ecolonomic" outcomes—solutions that combine environmental protection and productivity.

Around 200 participants attended the 5th Conference of the ICTM International Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing Aachen--topics included highly productive, eco-friendly manufacturing. (© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany)

Currently, there are two major issues affecting the turbomachinery manufacturing sector: the transition to a new energy economy and the stringent requirements this entails, and the environmental standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). By 2050, the ICAO will require aircraft to reduce their carbon dioxide and nitrogen emissions by 75% and 90%, respectively, and cut their noise emissions by 65%. Achieving these goals is complicated by the fact that demand for turbines has been rising for years due to the aviation industry's buoyant order books.

In a talk, Lars Wagner, chief operating officer of MTU Aero Engines (Munich, Germany), explained how the company plans to cope with the boom in orders and the corresponding capacity requirements over the next 10 years by implementing various solutions, including a smart factory. A further key to boosting productivity will be additive manufacturing. MTU is one of the pioneers in the use of this technology in engine construction, with 2000 series-produced, additively manufactured low-pressure turbine parts currently being used in industry. The production of further additive manufacturing components with a volume of 25,000 to 30,000 parts per year is planned for 2020.

One newcomer to the additive manufacturing scene is MAN Energy Solutions (Oberhausen, Germany), which has gained a foothold in the metal 3D printing business with its laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) process. Also known as selective laser melting (SLM), this technique was developed and patented by Fraunhofer ILT. Michael Kleinhenz, head of production, explained how LPBF has proved to be a successful technique not just for prototyping, but also for an initial selection of approved parts that are already coming off the assembly line. Kleinhenz's presentation refuted the idea that additively manufactured components are inherently more expensive to produce. He noted that the cost of producing a part for a compressor blade cluster has actually fallen because it no longer consists of 13 separate components, but rather a single component produced by a 3D printer. Other benefits include the ability to employ additive design methods to optimize component design and boost blade performance.

On a tour of Fraunhofer ILT, the conference participants discovered which processes researchers are currently working on to optimize 3D printing for reliable industrial-scale use—a clear indication that additive manufacturing technology still has plenty more potential to offer. These processes include integrating sensors into the LPBF process, printing 3D components using titanium and high-strength steels, and developing material alloys for laser additive manufacturing.

Related: Fraunhofer launches R&D center for turbomachinery manufacturing

Three ongoing developments attracted particular interest. The first is hybrid additive laser material deposition, an automated additive process that Fraunhofer ILT is currently investigating in a collaborative project (ProLMD) with partners from the aviation industry and other sectors. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), ProLMD combines laser material deposition (LMD) with conventional manufacturing techniques. This allows manufacturers to add reinforcements and other geometric elements to cast and forged parts using LMD. Another technique known as extreme high-speed laser material deposition (EHLA) has already been tried and tested in practice, and has proved to be a fast and environmentally friendly alternative to hard chrome plating in offshore applications in The Netherlands.

At the ICTM Conference 2019, Fraunhofer ILT researchers presented the preliminary results of the Fraunhofer focus project futureAM. Bulky components can now be produced using a scalable LPBF system that surpasses the previous limits of conventional metal 3D printing systems. (© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany)

Bulky components measuring 1000 × 800 × 500 mm can now be manufactured using a scalable LPBF system that surpasses the previous limits of conventional metal 3D printing systems. The ICTM Conference also showcased a system with a new laser head that was developed as part of the Fraunhofer focus project called futureAM. This boosts productivity by a factor of 10 compared to conventional LPBF systems.

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