The key components for aircraft turbines are made of high-tensile, heat-resistant materials. For example, the blade integrated discs – high-pressure compressors inside the turbine – are made of nickel-based alloys that put a lot of strain on milling tools. The components aren’t the only thing feeling the heat, the competitive pressure the aircraft manufacturers are under is rising, with their production planners forced to cut the throughput times for these components even more.
Aviation team at EMAG ECM develops customized Aero solutions
31/05/2016 - Markus Isgro
Eliminating downstream operations
Against this background the technology offered by EMAG ECM scores heavily, as electro-chemical machining, compared to milling processes, ensures that processes are shortened and the machining accuracy is increased, = with hardly any tool wear . How does this work? During the process, an electrolyte solution flows between the workpiece (the positive anode) and the tool (the negative cathode), removing metal ions from the workpiece. The tool contours are chosen to ensure the material removal on the workpiece results in the desired component contour. The surface quality that results from this process is exceptional and will often render subsequent finishing processes unnecessary.
The feasibility study shows the cost-benefit ratio
One of the most important aspects of this technology is the technical knowledge of the specialists in Gaildorf, near Schwäbisch Hall: a solid team of aviation experts that develops the appropriate solutions. Together with customers, experts from EMAG ECM’s technical sales department define the relevant production requirements necessary to create each workpiece. After the production requirements have been defined, EMAG ECM will complete a feasibility study that will establish the cost-benefit ratio of the process. “The customer will be made fully aware of the component tolerances and cycle times that can be achieved”, comments Richard Keller, member of the board at EMAG ECM GmbH.
The setup in Gaildorf also features a laboratory with a comprehensive development section that is used for the design of tool cathodes and includes a new 5-axis milling machine, state-of-the-art measuring technology and software systems that allow for 3-D geometries to be directly input into the machine. The scope and reach of EMAG’s technological focus is demonstrated by its cooperation agreements. There is, for instance, collaboration between EMAG ECM and the machine tool laboratory at the RWTH Aachen, and an industrial partnership with the newly created R&D Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) and the RWTH Aachen.
Successful in the aviation industry
The ECM process is currently receiving a lot of attention for its recent market successes, and will be delivering many machines to various OEMs in the aviation industry over the next few years. The process is so successful that aircraft engine manufacturers are already delivering engines to airlines that have been produced using turbine components manufactured with EMAG ECM technology, only a few years after the EMAG machines were built. This is a extraordinary, considering the protracted certification procedure that every production process of subcontractors for the aviation industry has to undergo.