Wednesday, May 15, 2013

News: How to make a turbine blade as a single crystal

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The Royal Aeronautical Society is hosting a lecture next week to find out how Rolls-Royce will manufacture single crystal turbine blades at its new Rotherham premises.

The Advanced Blade Casting Facility is currently under construction on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP). The multi million pound facility will produce a specific portfolio of civil aerospace parts, such as turbine blades, using advanced manufacturing techniques and an increased level of automation.

The new foundry will be used for Rolls-Royce's pioneering work in the manufacture of single crystal (SX) turbine blades. It is developing new, high-productivity manufacturing processes to create these important and highly complex aero engine components.

The turbine extracts energy from the hot gas stream received from the combustor in high-thrust aero engines. Turbine blades convert the energy stored within the gas into kinetic energy. It is required to withstand centrifugal loads of up to ten tonnes while operating at temperatures in excess of the melting point of the alloy.

Making a blade as a single crystal using a modified version of the directional solidification technique eliminates grain boundaries, a source of weakness in a high stress application, and single crystal casting, exotic alloying additions and protective coatings have enabled Rolls-Royce to increase metal temperatures by approximately 300°C over the last 50 years, a figure that can be doubled when the temperature of the gas stream itself is considered.

The Rotherham factory will manufacture advanced turbine blade castings for the company's most modern, high-thrust engines. There are over 65 in every iconic Trent engine and 100,000 blades per year will be manufactured when it becomes fully operational in 2014.

George Durrant is responsible for technical aspects of single crystal turbine blades at Rolls-Royce's plants in Derby and Rotherham. On May 21 at the AMP, he will explain the company's groundbreaking manufacturing techniques such as 3D structured light for geometry inspection.

Rolls-Royce is working closely with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry (part of the government's High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre along with the AMRC in Rotherham) to develop and optimise the enabling technologies. A pre-production cell is being used to prove the effectiveness of cutting edge technologies designed to deliver significant productivity improvements.

The 14,900 sq m factory is the first of three facilities on the AMP that has secured outline planning permission. It will be home to the first 180 employees of an initial 360 Rolls-Royce staff in Rotherham.

Royal Aeronautical Society Sheffield website
Rolls-Royce website

Images: Rolls-Royce

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