Optomec awarded $500K to repair Air Force turbine blades using LENS 3D printing technology

Industrial 3D printer company Optomec has been awarded a $500,000 approach advancement agreement from the US Air Pressure Sustainment Centre at Tinker Air Power foundation.

The deal will see Optomec produce a established of optimized 3D printing system parameters to fix the jet engine turbine blades uncovered on the Air Force’s F-15 and F-16 fighters. The job is centered close to Optomec’s Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) method, the company’s take on powder-based Directed Vitality Deposition (DED). It will also include extra technologies these types of as vision and distortion payment software program, controlled environment processing, and oxygen-no cost materials handling for batch automation.

By the end of the hard work, the Air Drive will be furnished with a selection of printable ‘recipes’ for titanium and nickel-centered superalloys, alongside with a complete new automatic Turbine Blade Repair 3D printer.

The F-16 Thunderbird. Photo via US Air Force.
The F-16 Thunderbird. Picture by means of US Air Power.

LENS 3D printing for MRO

Optomec’s LENS 3D printing method now sees comprehensive use in MRO purposes all over the world, as the business estimates it has fixed a lot more than 10 million aerospace elements about the previous 20 years. The demand from customers for the firm’s titanium 3D printing capabilities is reportedly increasing too, with enhanced desire from both the armed service and business plane repair sectors.

On best of its 3D printer portfolio, Optomec also offers various dozen ‘turn-key’ approach parameter recipes for a whole host of common LENS alloys and purposes. The recipes are an simple way for buyers to get started with metal 3D printing, generating the technological innovation far more accessible and substantially shortening the time essential for implementation on the shop flooring. In accordance to Optomec, the company’s recipes can minimize customers’ course of action development moments by an ordinary of six months.

“The turbine field has by now extensively adopted Optomec’s automatic DED alternative for high volume nickel alloy fix of aviation elements meanwhile Optomec has worked out the approach recipes for titanium mend,” mentioned Jamie Hanson, VP of Business enterprise Enhancement at Optomec. “This solution basically usually takes Optomec’s titanium repair method to substantial volume amounts where by it will have a significant impression on reducing maintenance fees as motor OEMs use extra and additional titanium.”

The new facility houses a number of metal 3D printers, such as Optomec's DED-based LENS systems. Photo via Optomec.
A LENS 3D printer in motion. Picture by means of Optomec.

Maintaining a fleet of 5,000 plane

With the modern $500,000 contract, the US Air Pressure is now expanding its current expenditure in Optomec. At present boasting a fleet of far more than 5,000 plane with an common aircraft age of 28 many years, the Power shells out millions of bucks a calendar year in maintenance and spare components. By employing metallic 3D printing into the combine, the work is projected to have an ROI of 184{3a9e182fe41da4ec11ee3596d5aeb8604cbf6806e2ad0e1498384eba6cf2307e} with a payback interval of just below two a long time.

As perfectly as offering capital for the business, the job will aid increase Optomec’s titanium and superalloy 3D printing capabilities with improved approach parameters made exclusively for turbine maintenance.

Following its acquisition of Huffman LLC in 2018, Optomec has increasingly developed its LENS technology (pictured) for MRO applications. Image via Optomec. 
Optomec also features several dozen ‘turn-key’ course of action parameter recipes for its LENS engineering. Image by using Optomec. 

The output and repair service of turbine blades has come to be a important software of metallic 3D printing in heavy industries these kinds of as aerospace and electricity. Earlier this year, electricity technology company Siemens Strength took an unconventional turn when it announced a new digital gas turbine blade repair chain dependent not on DED, but on powder mattress fusion. As very well as aspect repair, the technological know-how can be applied to 3D print new options on to conventionally created gasoline turbine blades.

Elsewhere, GE Study was recently awarded a job by the US Section of Power (DoE) to discover the design and style and manufacture of 3D printed turbine blades for wind energy. The function will see GE make a comprehensive-measurement 3D printed blade tip for structural testing, as very well as a few blade suggestions to be put in on a serious wind turbine.

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Featured graphic shows the F-16 Thunderbird. Picture via US Air Pressure.

Ellen C. McGowan

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