And in response to a Clean Sky 2 call for proposals, in 2018 a consortium of Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), TU Dresden (TUD) and technology company Autodesk, was selected to support GE AAT Munich for the design and manufacturing of a large-scale metal additive manufacturing component – the Advanced Additive Integrated Turbine Centre Frame (TCF) casing – the MONACO project. This also included the design and production of coupons and critical parts, validation and qualification, and the final delivery of the full-sized metal 3D-printed casing.
This new additive manufacturing design solution on engine frames is not limited to turbine center frames for future engines; it can be leveraged to existing and legacy engine center frames. The proposed design features can also be transferred and/or scaled to turbine rear frames (TRF), low-pressure turbine casings and turbine mid frames (TMF).
Due to stringent requirements on airworthy hardware in the highly regulated aerospace industry, the number of approved vendors for casting and forging parts is very limited. This creates long lead times and high costs. These challenges, and the fact that a turbine center frame isn’t a rotating part, made it an ideal candidate for additive manufacturing.
“Additive manufacturing offers enormous potential to lower weight, improve component functionalities, and substantially reduce part count in complex assemblies, directly increasing aircraft energy efficiency, and reducing assembly costs and time,” said Christina-Maria Margariti, project officer for hydrogen-powered aircraft for Clean Aviation.
“The Clean Aviation program, in line with the EU Green Deal objective of carbon neutrality by 2050, supports the launch of disruptive new products by 2035, with the aim to replace 75% of the operating fleet by 2050. Faster time to market and increased production rates will therefore be crucial to reaching these ambitious environmental targets,” she added.
Outside the environmental, performance, weight, cost benefits and reduction of waste material of this new part, perhaps the biggest impact will be supply chain disruption in all industries facing challenges with their casting in conventional manufacturing.
Sharma said it’s been an enormous achievement and reflects, from the outset, the talent and drive of the consortium members. “The team is smart. Bringing everyone together and putting in place support structures for the build that was unconventional meant we optimized not only the hardware but our processes. It was wonderful to see the collaboration, everyone with different backgrounds working together. This aspect was unique.”
The project employed a multi-disciplinary iteration loop set up to design the hardware and leveraged Lean manufacturing concepts, processes and tools to reduce design iteration time. Many innovative and creative design features and solutions were considered and introduced to reduce pressure, thermal gradient and stress.
The involvement of academia has been critical to the overall success of the project, enabling them to become part of a large European technology program by collaborating closely with industry, using their infrastructure and maturing different technologies.
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Targeting cleaner skies
As part of the Clean Sky 2 and its successor Clean Aviation EU programs, the GE Aerospace Advanced Technology Munich-led European consortium unveiled one of the largest-ever metal 3D printed aerospace parts, a TCF casing, demonstrating significant cost, weight and time savings. The one-meter-in-diameter part manufactured in nickel alloy 718 on a GE Additive system is one of the largest aerospace parts additively manufactured using the Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) process. The shift from conventional casting to AM reduced cost and weight by 30%, through the consolidation of over 150 parts into one. The lead time was also reduced from more than nine months to two and a half months.