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Turbine blades are the workhorse of the modern aero engine. They operate in an extreme environment, with temperatures exceeding 1,600˚ C / 2,732˚ F (enough to melt the materials) and centrifugal forces of multiple tonnes generated by rotations of up to 12,000 rpm. Since the shape of the turbine blade determines energy efficiency, airflow and thrust, any surface or dimensional imperfection can cause blade and ultimately engine failure. Furthermore, turbine blade designs have become increasingly intricate and harder to measure as they incorporate new geometries and different composites and castings. There is no room for error when measuring and inspecting these parts.
Quality Gates along the Turbine Blade Production Process
With millions of turbine blades are produced each year, the cost of non-quality is critical and the desire for "right-first-time" products is at the centre forward thinking manufacturers. The ZEISS solutions are the perfect compliment, with equipment and software designed for in process control checks, final inspection and closed loop data handling tools such as PiWeb.
Wax and ceramic core processes
It's no secret if you control your inputs, the outputs will normally take care of themselves. That's extremely important when considering the turbine blade casting process with the small impact a wax or ceramic core can have on the final casting.
Understanding what impact the wax and ceramic core shape, size, profiles and impurities have on the final cast product.
- ZEISS technologies are well equiped to build and digitally document the product for process improvement evaluation.
- ZEISS X-Ray series and ATOS ScanBoxes enable you to create a digital twin of your product, without destructing it.
- Software products like GOM Blade Inspect allow trend analysis in 3D
Investment Casting Process
The value of the turbine blade increases significantly the moment metal is poured, the result of all the hard work of the ceramic core, wax and shell processes. The ZEISS products continue to add value and validate your process into it's final cast state.
Ensuring the product is fit for its intended purpose in terms of the external and internal characteristics.
- In-process-measurement data is fed into CADCAM softwares
- Final inspection with 2D and 3D X-Ray systems to ensure the integrity of the internal cavities and wall thickness.
- Automated measuring cell like the ATOS ScanBox BPS or the ZEISS Integration Series ensure high throughput in inspection areas.
The machining processes to turn the casting to a finished, flying part are complex, fine tolerance high-throughput set ups. Often small cells combining machining centres, measurement devices, and automation are used to streamline and remove operator influence from the process.
Ensuring the measurement data is collected in the most effective set up, delivering rapid feedback of key characteristics at the point of manufacture is a crucial need of high-volume manufacture.
The combination of robust, shop floor designed equipment, with automation solutions and the right reporting software for complete closed-loop feedback at the point of manufacture.
Coatings are an essential part of the turbine blade. They're added to protect the blades from corrosion in the harsh environments and for added thermal properties enabling high operating temperatures.
The process for validating the coatings is vital to ensure integrity and lifing of the turbine blade. Small variables in the process have the potential to have a detrimental effect on the conformity of the product, so having the right quality tools is essential.
ZEISS has two primary solutions for ensuring the coating thickness and integrity in process set up, validation and high-scale production. For the destructive testing which is common to check the integrity of the coating as well as thickness the ZEISS microscopy toolset is sure to fulfil the needs. When a process is establish and process checks like thickness are required, the ZEISS ScanBox is the right solution for a quick inspection by analysing the blade before and after coating to calculate the coating thickness. This is a cost effective solution not requiring blade cut ups.
Regulatory and OEM requirements like AS9102 or AS13003 are necessary, stringent and comprehensive to fulfil.
There are extensive validation requirements on a turbine blade with no single solution fulfilling all requirements. In this case, the ZEISS range of quality tools and techniques are the perfect match.
Within the ZEISS suite of hardware and software solutins, there is high-accuracy tacile, optical and microscopy solutions to fulfil the many thousands of characteristic necessary to validate.