Optomec, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, has been awarded a $500,000 process development contract from the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, USA, to repair jet engine components used in the F-15 and F-16 fighters using Additive Manufacturing.
The company will use its LENS® technology, a metal AM process based on powder-fed Directed Energy Deposition (DED), together with proprietary enabling machine capabilities including advanced vision and distortion compensation software, Controlled Atmosphere processing and batch automation using oxygen-free material handling.
The effort will focus on developing optimised process parameters and procedures in order to repair the turbine blades using AM, produced from both titanium and nickel-base superalloys. These AM ‘recipes’ and ‘libraries’ will be implemented in conjunction with the delivery of an advanced automated turbine blade repair machine. The programme has a projected ROI of 184%, with a payback period of less than two years, and could reportedly save the US Air Force millions of dollars as it maintains its fleet of more than 5,000 aircraft with an average age of twenty-eight years.
Optomec’s AM repair processes are currently used in high-volume production for other turbine engine parts globally, having repaired more than 10 million components over the last twenty years. This project is expected to extend Optomec’s capability with regard to high-volume titanium repair which must be conducted in oxygen-free environments to ensure proper metallurgy and mechanical performance. Titanium demand in aircraft engines is said to be increasing in both the military and commercial aviation markets.
“The turbine industry has already widely adopted Optomec’s automated DED solution for high volume nickel alloy repair of aviation parts; meanwhile Optomec has worked out the process recipes for titanium repair,” stated Jamie Hanson, VP of Business Development. “This solution essentially takes Optomec’s titanium repair process to high volume levels where it will have a major impact on lowering maintenance costs as engine OEMs use more and more titanium.”
Optomec states that it offers dozens of turn-key process recipes for a variety of common alloys and applications. These process recipes help production customers shorten the adoption time for implementing AM solutions to the plant floor, saving customers an average of six months of process development.