Last Friday November 18, Avio Aero, the GE Aviation business active in the design, manufacture and maintenance of aviation engines, and the Bari Polytechnic opened the Apulia Repair Development Centre For Additive Repairs. This is the first laboratory in Italy created for experts, researchers and young post-graduates whose mission will be to develop innovative repair procedures for aviation engine components, employing technologies based on systems of laser deposition and cold spray.
The nature of the partnership established means that the laboratory can count on highly qualified intellectual input from Professors in the Bari Polytechnic, who will supply the scientific support and know-how to power its research. The Polytechnic will also offer additional expertise from its Department of Mechanical Engineering.
At the end of 2015, there were roughly 50,000 aircraft for civil transport. Ten years from now there will be 70,000, which is 20,000 aircraft more – explains Giorgio Abrate, Avio Aero’s Head of Engineering. This represents a massive opportunity for us, but to make the most of it we must work more on engine maintenance... not only by replacing components, but also increasingly – by improving our ability to repair them. This is why we have decided to focus on additive repair technology, creating this laboratory, the only one of its kind in Italy, devoted to highly sophisticated technological research and development in this field. This inauguration – continues Abrate – further boosts Avio Aero’s activities in Puglia, where we are present with an important plant in Brindisi which employs roughly 700 people. We can also count on the advanced engineering know-how generated through our ongoing collaboration with the Bari Polytechnic and the University of Salento, which have recently become part of the “Technology Development Community”... an innovative partnership model involving a group of 7 Universities recognised by Avio Aero as possessing specialist expertise of fundamental strategic importance for future challenges in aviation technologies”.
Powder Fed Laser Deposition
a well-established technology in repair applications. But Avio Aero added two innovative improvements in order to achieve better control of the processes, and better flexibility in applications. The improvements include: the inert atmosphere cabin for the treatment of Aluminum or TiAl alloys, and the control of laser power in real time.
It is technology where the deposition of particles on the substrate, instead of taking place through fusion, is achieved through mechanical deformation, thanks to the elevated energy directed onto the metal base. This offers numerous advantages compared to conventional plasma sprays, above all its avoidance of any change in mechanical characteristics and the superficial heat treatment of components.
The centre has been created specifically in order to identify, develop and experiment on innovative repair processes. Right after the development phase, these repair processes can be implemented in the main repair stations present at Avio Aero facilities, including that in Brindisi, dedicated to the assembly and maintenance of aviation engines.
In 2017 the Apulia Repair Development Centre For Additive Repairs will focus mainly on turbine blades and on the lightweight alloy casings of accessory control boxes. The components involved in the research will come from various different engines, including the GE90, which drives the Boeing 777 and the GEnx, used on the 787 and 747-8 Dreamliners.