Trends in the business unit "Turbomachinery"

The “Turbomachinery“ business unit of the Fraunhofer IPT researches and develops technologies for the production and repair of turbo engine components in applications such as aeronautical engineering, power generation, car manufacturing and oil and gas production. Daniel Heinen, head of the business unit, explains which technological developments will attract and reward specific attention over the next few years.

What are today’s key technological challenges for turbomachinery manufacturers?

Higher levels of efficiency and lower emissions are the key objectives in the development of modern turbo engines. This is why highly heat-resistant materials and complex, frequently thin-walled geometries and integrated components are so important. The industrial processes must be dynamic as well as stable in order to combine high levels of surface quality with acceptable production times. In order to deliver this, we need to develop quick and standardized ways of designing different process chains to manufacture individual components and ways of optimizing the industrial processes through highly efficient models and software tools. Our expertise and experience allow us to provide turbo engine manufacturers with support in all areas of the development and production chains: from materials science and management to the design and characterization of highly dynamic machine tools, from the development of dampening clamping systems and optical measuring technology to the simulation and modelling of individual technologies, processes and process chains.

How can turbomachinery manufacturers benefit from the networking of technological know-how and process technology?

Given the complex nature of turbo engine components, the comprehensive simulations of production processes and the sophisticated sensors that are required to identify and represent real geometries generate huge amounts of data. These data must then be further processed and calibrated or adjusted many times along the process chain. This is why technological development departments must strive to ensure high levels of data consistency and continuity, with robust processes that can be adjusted further down the line. The Fraunhofer IPT has a wide range of experience with such tasks from previous research and development projects and considerable methodological skills, on the level of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) as well as CAx systems. By providing seamless data chains for a wide variety of products throughout their life cycles, we have the skills and the background required to deploy effective and innovative manufacturing or maintenance processes and technologies with maximum levels of flexibility.

What impact does a higher level of online/offline adaptivity in processes and process chains have on turbomachinery manufacturing?

At the Fraunhofer IPT, we are currently developing new CAD methods of manipulating models, for example by morphing modelled surfaces or by protocolling all changes of a component’s geometry throughout its life cycle by using “digital twins“. By combining models and simulations in a CAx environment with machine-integrated measuring technology and the recirculation of these measuring data into process planning and ultimately into the ongoing production process, we are taking the optimization of turbo engine manufacturing processes to new levels – and save our partner companies time and money. Adaptive clamping systems and customized control systems – that have been specially adapted to the requirements of turbomachinery manufacturers – help us to ensure that the finished components will be able to comply with even the most stringent safety requirements, despite the use of complex geometries and materials that are quite often difficult to machine and to process.