Optomec Inc, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, and robotic material removal system provider Acme Manufacturing, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA, have partnered to produce what they are calling an industry first: a fully automated work cell, optimised for repairing aviation compressor blades made of titanium.
The turnkey work cell is the product of a two-year collaboration between the companies working with input from commercial maintenance repair & overhaul (MRO) and US Department of Defense repair centres for aircraft engines. The automated work cell has a repair capacity of 85,000 titanium compressor blades per year, and provides a compelling ROI when compared to traditional CNC machines and manual TIG welding. Technologies used in the automated work cell are commercially available today and have been certified by civil aviation authorities globally.
The entry-level work cell consists of three stations that enable robotic blade tip grinding, additively manufactured laser cladding and robotic post-clad finishing. The cell also includes an automated pallet load/unload station, a pallet flipping station, and a robotic material handling system. Each machine in the work cell is capable of automatically adjusting tool paths to accommodate blade-to-blade variations resulting from normal wear and distortion during service.
The Optomec CS-250 five-axis laser cladding machine is used to produce high-quality, high-yield precision welds for titanium compressor blades utilising proprietary LENS Directed Energy Deposition (DED) and AutoCLAD advanced vision and adaptive tool-pathing technology in a controlled argon atmosphere. The Acme Manufacturing MRO blade tip repair machines can be configured for blade tip grinding, weld blending, and polishing. The system is equipped with the first of its kind auto path generation, that allows for a high mix, low volume environment. This new technology is 3 – 4X faster than traditional CNC machines.
Mike Dean, VP of Marketing at Optomec, stated, “Our collaboration with Acme Manufacturing has brought together complementary technologies that provide a compelling business case for customers. Demanding repair requirements, driven by commercial and DoD repair centers, has led Optomec to enhance our DED capabilities to enable high-volume, high-yield repair for compressor blades, an especially challenging objective for titanium parts.”
GA Fritz Carlson III, president & CEO of Acme, concluded, “Acme has delivered over 200 robotic material removal systems to the aerospace industry in the past thirty-five years – largely for new part manufacturing. By utilising efficient and repeatable robotic finishing technology, we can enable MRO engine repair centres to improve overall component quality and help lower unit costs. I am excited about our teams’ developments in auto path generation, which allows us to enter a new market of automated material removal systems.”
Optomec is exhibiting at Formnext Hall 12.0, E129.