Aero-engine components are very complex structures to handle and their manufacturing & maintenance requires excellent technologies. In a major breakthrough and for the first time, Indian Scientists have repaired aero-engine components through emerging Additive Manufacturing (AM).
The team from the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) has indigenously made powders suitable for the additive manufacturing process called the Directed Energy Deposition process. The process can significantly reduce repair costs and overhaul time (manufacturer’s recommended number of running hours after which a component needs service) of aero-engine components made of Ni (Nickel)-based superalloy.
How this will help in the manufacturing of the aero-engine components?
Ni (Nickel)-based superalloy (corrosion-resistant high-temperature alloys usually used at service temperatures above 500°C) are widely used in aero-engine components. The alloys have extraordinary properties but are prone to frequent damages due to extreme operational conditions. Also, manufacturing defects during the casting or machining process is also a big cause of rejection. And, these usher tons of unused components and aero-engine parts which are scrapped due to minor defects.
Now, this is the part where the indigenous powders will come in handy. The powders suitable for the additive manufacturing process using inert gas atomizer available at ARCI, unused scrap material will be melted. Further, utilizing this technique, ARCI is developing the Laser-DED process for the repair of aero-engine components.
ARCI team has also developed a technology to refurbish pinion housing assembly
In other development, the ARCI team has developed a technology to refurbish pinion housing assembly (a critical component in helicopters used for power transmission to the main fan). The refurbishment of the pinion housing assembly is done by machining out (manufacturing process that creates the desired shape by removing undesirable material from a larger piece of material) the damaged layer and rebuilding it using laser cladding process followed by final machining.
Laser cladding is a manufacturing technique for adding one material to the surface of another. It is also known as laser metal deposition. Laser cladding and Laser-DED are the same processes with a slight difference. In general, for two-dimensional deposition (surface coating) laser cladding is used. For the manufacture of three-dimensional parts, laser-DED is used. The repair and refurbishment technologies developed by ARCI can impact the aerospace sector at large.