Turbine Center Frame
One significant research initiative underway to develop more fuel-efficient air transport technologies for the earliest possible deployment is the European Commission and European aerospace industry-funded Clean Sky 2 Program, now entering its final phase. Its successor Clean Aviation was launched in February 2021.
The Clean Sky 2 program is made up of key industry players and subject matter experts along with academic research bodies across Europe. The program is integrating, demonstrating, and validating technologies capable of reducing CO2 emissions as well as nitrous oxide (NOx) and noise emissions by up to 30 percent compared to the most fuel-efficient commercial aircraft that were in service in 2014. Another goal is to develop a strong and globally competitive aeronautical industry and supply chain in Europe.
Based in Munich, Germany, the GE Aerospace Advanced Technology (GE AAT) team leads three core partnerships in the Clean Sky 2 program to identify engine hardware, benefits, design, manufacturing process and; connected to the program’s goals, collaborate closely with GE Aerospace’s sites in Italy, Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey, as well as external partners. One of the GE AAT Munich-led partnerships is the Turbine Technology Project (TURN), which was set up to accelerate technology maturation for future aero engines.
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.
After almost six years in R&D and engineering, the large-format TCF casing design using GE Additive’s Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) technology in nickel alloy 718 was recently unveiled by the consortium. The TCF casing is one of largest additively manufactured parts produced for the aerospace industry. The additively manufactured TCF casing is designed for narrow-body engines in which the part is approximately one meter or more in diameter.
“We wanted to reduce the weight of the part by 25 percent but also improve the pressure losses of the secondary air flow as well as a strong reduction in part count to improve maintenance,” said Dr. Günter Wilfert, GE AAT Munich’s Technology and Operations Manager. “Those targets were achieved and surpassed. We were able to reduce the weight by 30 percent in the end. The team also reduced the manufacturing lead time from nine months to two and a half months, by approximately 75 percent. Over 150 separate parts that make up a conventional turbine center frame casing have been consolidated into one single-piece design.”
The turbine center frame, an inherent component of modern, turbofan aircraft engines, serves as a duct for the hot gas that flows from the high-pressure turbine into the low-pressure turbine. Conventionally, they are manufactured by casting and/or forging, followed by additional machining steps.
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).
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