Some pictures from our visit to the Farnborough International Airshow this week.
Some pictures from our visit to the Farnborough International Airshow this week.
GE Reports By Tomas Kellner
The HondaJet business jet is one of the newest planes at this year’s EAA AirVentures fly-in extravaganza at Oshkosh, Wis. It was developed by Honda Aircraft, a subsidiary of the Japanese industrial giant primarily known for car and motorcycles.
Right away, the jet captures attention with its unusual over-the-wing jet engine mount. Honda spent the last two decades developing the design. Removing the engines from the fuselage allowed the engineers to build a more spacious cabin, reduce cabin noise and cut fuel consumption.
The plane is powered by a pair of HF120 jet engines jointly developed by GE Aviation and Honda.The engine was certified by the FAA last year and is now in production. With 18.5 inches in diameter and 2,095 pounds of thrust, it is the smallest jet engine in GE’s portfolio. For comparison, GE’s largest engine, the GE90-115B developed for Boeing 777 wide-body planes, can generate 127,900 pounds of thrust. On Tuesday, photographer Adam Senatori got an exclusive access to the plane here in Oshkosh, which has been already sold to a customer.
Images and GIF credits: Adam Senatori/GE Reports
In the century following the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903, planes have gone through three materials revolutions: wood and fabric fuselages gave way to aluminum and, eventually, to light and strong carbon composites used to make the bodies of the latest planes like Boeing’s Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.
But a new and unusual material is now changing the industry again: ceramics.
These ceramics are not your typical cup of tea. If you want to fly non-stop from New York to Sydney, jet engines with parts made from so-called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) could be your ticket not too far in the future. The light, tough and heat resistant material will allow engineers to build lighter and more efficient engines that can take planes farther and burn less fuel.
Top and above: GE’s ADVENT adaptive jet engine for sixth-generation fighter jets could soon start using turbine blades made from CMCs. Image credit: GE Aviation
Static components made from CMCs are already serving in the newest and most advanced civilian and military engines like the LEAP engine made by CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation and France’s Snecma (Safran).
GE Engineers just scored an important breakthrough when they for the first time successfully tested rotating parts made from CMCs inside a jet engine turbine (see below). “Going from nickel alloys to rotating ceramics inside the engine is the really big jump,” says Jonathan Blank, who leads CMC and advanced polymer matrix composite research at GE Aviation. “CMCs allow for a revolutionary change in jet engine design.”
A turbine rotor with blades made from CMCs after a test. The yellow blades are covered with an environmental barrier for experimental purposes. Since blades made from CMCs are so light, they allow engineers to reduce the size and weight of the metal disk to which they are attached (the shiny steel part in the center), and design lighter and more efficient jet engines. Image credit: GE Aviation.
The material has two hugely winning attributes for aviation: it’s one-third the weight of metal, and it’s also heat-resistant and doesn’t need to be air-cooled.
The turbines of most modern jet engines work with surface high temperatures, which can make even advanced alloys grow soft. Engineers use lasers to drill tiny holes in the metal alloy turbine blades to bleed in cooling air and protect their surface from the heat. But the cooling air also reduces engine performance. “More heat means more cooling air, which lowers overall efficiency,” Blank says. “When you drop the need for cooling components, your engine will become aerodynamically more efficient and also more fuel efficient.”
GE spent two decades developing CMCs. Scientists at GE Global Research tried to shoot a steel ball flying at 150 mph through a sample, but failed. Image credit: GE Global Research
Since the rotating turbine blades made from CMCs are so light, they also allow engineers to reduce the size of the metal disks to which they are attached. “This is pure mechanics,” Blank says. “The lighter blades generate smaller centrifugal force, which means that you can also slim down the disk, bearings and other parts.”
When they tried the same with a non-CMC plate, they easily succeeded. Image credit: GE Global Research
GE just recently finished the world’s first successful test of rotating CMC blades inside an F414 military jet engine, which normally powers F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet jets. They were able to run the engine for 500 cycles. (One cycle takes the engine to takeoff thrust and back.) The blades powered through punishing dynamic forces and temperatures topping 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit inside the engine’s low-pressure turbine.
The first application of the blades could be inside a new jet engine for “sixth-generation” fighter jets (see below). “But we already envision future commercial applications,” Blank says.
A rendering of GE’s ADVENT engine. Image credit: GE Aviation
GE made the CMC blades for the test at its materials research facility in Newark, Del., but the company has already built a new plant in Asheville, N.C. for high rate production of components made from CMCs.
GE has spent $1 billion over the last two decades to develop the material. Says materials scientist Krishan Luthra who was involved in the project: “I thought it would be the Holy Grail if we could make it work.”
ELE Advanced Technologies, a precision engineering company based in Colne, is to expand its activities in the aerospace supply chain after it was confirmed that it will receive £1.2 million in funding over four years. The grant will cover additional staff training, which will be provided by the industry-led Sharing in Growth (SiG) programme (http://sig-uk.org/).
Sharing in Growth UK Ltd was set up in 2012 to deliver £110 million of intensive supplier development training over four years to 40 UK aerospace suppliers. The selection process is rigorous and only the most robust and ambitious suppliers achieve a position on the programme. It will now provide ELE with long-term coaching, mentoring and training across all areas of its business.
Formerly Earby Light Engineers, the company was renamed ELE in 2000 after a management buyout. It is a leading specialist in machining safety critical components for gas turbines, using processes such as VIPER grinding, creep-feed grinding, laser drilling, capillary drilling, electro-chemical machining, electric discharge machining and fast hole drilling. Leading aerospace and power generation industries are among its customers, including Rolls-Royce, Siemens, GE Avio, Alstom and MAN Diesel & Turbo. ELE is also a major supplier of components to the automotive turbocharger sector from its Slovakian plant.
Accredited to AS 9001 and TS16949 quality management standards and a member of the North West Aerospace Alliance, ELE has expanded significantly in recent years. It has spent £5 million since 2009 on new production equipment to enhance its capability and capacity. At its main factory in Colne, which employs 110 people, ELE made its biggest single investment of £2 million in a robotically loaded, 5-axis Makino VIPER grinding cell. It was commissioned in 2012 for large capacity, high efficiency machining of nickel alloy turbine blades and nozzle guide vanes.
A satellite manufacturing facility in Trenčín, Slovakia, was opened in 2007 to establish a low-cost manufacturing base for making turbochargers for the European automotive market, an activity that will double in size by 2016. The intention is to add aerospace manufacturing skills to the factory, where 80 people are currently employed.
Another development at ELE is the appointment of two new members to the Board. David Dudley returned in July 2014 as Technical Director after a short absence and Barry Pratt was appointed Sales Director in November. Both have long experience in turbine and aerospace manufacturing spanning almost the whole of their working lives.
In addition, Peter Palij has taken up the position of Commercial Director, with the responsibility for the supervision of existing contracts with a view to establishing a world-class customer service.
ELE’s Managing Director, Manesh Pandya, commented, “After successfully completing the SiG diagnostic phase, which started in April 2014, we are delighted to have received confirmation that ELE has become a beneficiary and will now receive significant investment.
“We are looking to increase turnover from £10 million to £25 million over the next four years. Bearing in mind that 90 per cent of our material is free-issue, we are actually a larger operation than the current and projected turnover figures suggest.
“The SiG initiative, coupled with our new Board appointments, will help enormously in our efforts to expand the business.”
He pointed out that the UK’s world-class aerospace sector is the largest in Europe and second largest in the world, after the USA. Its capabilities in the manufacture of some of the most sophisticated, high value parts of modern aircraft has created a high technology industry of 3,000 companies and 230,000 highly skilled employees that creates massive economic benefits for the UK.
Solving problems in the manufacture of complex components from difficult-to-machine materials in short time scales is ELE’s specialism. In so doing, and working alongside research scientists at the University of Manchester, the company has invented world-beating technologies that are in the process of being patenting.
One involves a new method of shaped tube electro-chemical machining (STEM) for producing turbulated cooling holes in turbine blades. The holes, which can have a length-to-diameter ratio of up to 300:1 and a minimum diameter as small as 0.5 mm, have a corkscrew profile that increases thermal transfer by around one-third compared with smooth holes. An aero or industrial engine can therefore run hotter and more efficiently, saving fuel – around four per cent, according to some estimates.
The STEM drilling process for producing the multiple holes by acid electrolytic machining has been enhanced by ELE such that new process has a failure rate of less than 1 per cent, which is class-leading. STEM drilling can produce multiple holes of different diameters simultaneously and can machine any material, irrespective of hardness.
Another development that will be patented is an automated inspection process, which the company will disclose fully when the patents have been registered. A prototype machine has already been produced and is currently being tested.
DAVID DUDLEY, Technical Director of ELE, is a time-served apprentice who started his career at an aerospace component and assembly manufacturer. He holds an HND in mechanical engineering and a Masters Degree in Manufacturing Engineering Systems from UMIST, now part of the University of Manchester. He is also a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.
In 1996, Mr Dudley joined the company as Engineering Manager. He later took on the position of Quality Assurance Manager. After a short period with another manufacturing firm, in July 2014 he rejoined ELE in his new Board position.
BARRY PRATT, Sales Director of ELE, completed a technical apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce, later becoming an aero engine refurbishment specialist. He also gained an HND in mechanical engineering and holds a diploma in management studies.
Five years with a company in the investment casting sector taught him about the initial stages of turbine blade manufacture and he also has experience of forging technology. This period introduced him to medical manufacturing, in particular the production hip and knee prosthetics.
A management position in a turbine coating company added knowledge of diffused coatings, not only of engine components but also of airframe parts such as landing gear. Prior to joining ELE, he was Vice President of Business Development at PAS Technologies, an OEM and MRO (maintenance, repair, overhaul) solution provider for the aerospace, oil and gas, and industrial gas turbine markets.
The UK’s booming aerospace industry, which accounted for 55 per cent of civil aerospace sales in 2010, has been described by the government as a phenomenal success story and a sector that offers tremendous opportunities for growth.
This is an article written by Mark E Johnson and published in the RELOCATE MAGAZINE