Cutting costs in aircraft turbine production

A vibration clamping system has been produced by the Fraunhofer Institute to allow faster milling of aircraft turbine compressor blades. The system will aid damping by 400 times, cutting costs by nearly £4000.

Turbine blades are long and thin, and producing them causes them to vibrate like a tuning fork. To avoid this, manufacturers mill each blade step by step. However, this manufacturing process has its own problems as tension causes the geometry to become slightly warped.

Using the clamping system, manufacturers can roughly mill the blades first, and then perform the precise finishing work because the blades no longer vibrate.

Vibrating blades also put a strain on the tools’ cutting edge, forming fissures that quickly increase in size with mechanical and thermal stress. Tools often have to be replaced after cutting only 4m of material.

“Spring-loaded clamps automatically grasp the blade with equal amounts of tension on both sides,” said Roman Kalocsay, a researcher at Fraunhofer. “As soon as the elements are in position, they are hydraulically clamped in place and hold the workpiece as if it had grown there.”

Turbine blades are mounted on compressor disks, and to make these disks as light as possible, they are normally milled from a single piece of material rather than constructed blade by blade: this is known as a ‘blade-integrated disk’ or ‘blisks’.

Justin Cunningham

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