The fourth biannual ICTM Conference, organised by the International Centre for Turbomachinery Manufacturing (ICTM), was held in Aachen, Germany, this February 15-16. The event was organised in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institutes for Production Technology (IPT) and Laser Technology (ILT) and saw 250 experts from 19 countries come together to discuss ways to more efficiently develop and manufacture turbines for power plants and aircraft in the digital age.
Over the two-day event, 21 presentations explored the influence of advanced machining, Additive Manufacturing and industry 4.0 on the production of turbomachinery. In attendance were turbine manufacturers, corporations and medium-sized companies representing key aspects of diverse process chains.
The number of participants in the ICTM conference has risen from 190 to 250 since the first event was held in 2011, while the number of industry partners exhibiting their products has increased from 10 to 15. The number of demonstrations put on by the two Fraunhofer Institutes has more than doubled; where in 2011 there were 19 live demonstrations, the 2017 conference saw 44– including demonstrations of Additive Manufacturing, ultrashort pulse lasers, 5-axis waterjet cutting, and cryogenic cooling of materials that are difficult to machine.
The ICTM conference was founded in response to the need for information exchange between turbomachinery manufacturers and the increasing difficulty in finding the right facts and figures. “Going forward, you need to know where expertise in new technologies is being developed,” stated Prof Johannes Henrich Schleifenbaum, Head of Additive Manufacturing and Functional Layers at Fraunhofer ILT.
To foster new developments, Schleifenbaum added that industry and research needed to work closely together in a targeted and coordinated way. Schleifenbaum, holder of the Chair for Digital Additive Production DAP at RWTH Aachen University, described the International Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing ICTM, with its current tally of 30 partner companies, as a good example of collaboration in action in the field of turbomachinery production.
Some of the multidisciplinary expertise developed there has already been made available to participants at this year’s ICTM Conference. “When you leave the conference, take this expertise away with you, so that you can draw inspiration from our ideas and innovations,” Schleifenbaum concluded. “Join the ICTM Center, collaborate with us, and become a part of this wonderful network!”
The founding members of the ICTM Center include Munich-based MTU Aero Engines, whose Chief Operating Officer Dr Rainer Martens gave a presentation on digital engine production. Geared turbofan engines, in which MTU has a substantial stake, have become popular in the aviation industry due to their low levels of fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and noise emissions. As a result, between 2009 and 2020, production of MTU’s components is expected to quadruple.
Discussions were also held on the industrialisation of Additive Manufacturing. At MTU, extremely complex and highly integrated compressor rotors play an important role. These compressor rotors have an innovative blade integrated disk (blisk) design and are constructed from heavy-duty titanium alloys that are characterised by their utmost precision (< 30 µm). To manufacture these blisks, MTU has spent over 70 million euros building a new production hall that features a high level of automation and digitalisation.
“Here we create a large quantity of big data, which we still have to convert to smart data that can then be of some benefit to us,” reported Dr Martens in Aachen. “When it comes to turning centres, we are much more advanced because integrated measuring technology already allows us to compare data. For instance, we use geometric data to draw conclusions as to the condition of the machines.”