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Repair Capability Research Grant for Integrally Bladed Rotors

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: 19 February, 2010  (Application Story)
Optomec will undertake further research into repairing gas turbine aircraft engines which use nickel-based superalloy integrally bladed rotors
Optomec has received a Phase II SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) contract from the US Navy to continue the development of a new repair capability for restoring aircraft engine integrally bladed rotors (IBRs, also known as blisks). The Phase II contract brings the total amount of funding to $900,000. Optomec’s Phase I and Phase II proposals for funding were supported by Pratt & Whitney, the leading supplier of gas turbine engines to the US Department of Defence.

Modern jet engines use IBRs, which are one-piece components integrating the blades and disc. These components wear over time, as the tips of the airfoils rub into the shrouds. They can also be damaged by foreign objects entering the engine and impacting the airfoils. To repair these components, material added to restore the damaged IBR airfoils must meet the same stringent property requirements as new components. During six years of development work, the LENS system has proven its ability over competing processes in IBR repair because it has been shown to be uniquely capable of producing material with the desired shape, structure and properties for this demanding application. In addition, the LENS process has demonstrated economic viability to repair IBRs that would otherwise cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace.

In the current project, the nickel-based superalloy that is used to manufacture the IBR is considered very difficult to weld, and typically suffers from extensive cracking when welded. However, these problems have been eliminated by using the LENS process. Dr Richard Grylls, LENS Product Manager for Optomec states, “We are implementing an upgraded control system that enables the production of improved microstructures that will enable the LENS process to make repairs with outstanding properties for many high-strength superalloys, and also expand the capability of LENS to repair Titanium IBRs. This new capability will find application beyond IBR repair, including other airfoil repairs in aerospace and industrial gas turbine applications.” The additional funding will be used to conduct extensive mechanical property testing, and to continue to advance the technology readiness level of this repair.
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