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Work cell for repairing titanium compressor blades unveiled at IMTS 2022

At the ongoing International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, additive firm Optomec has unveiled a fully automated work cell optimised for repairing aviation compressor blades made of titanium.

The turnkey work cell is the result of a two-year collaboration with Acme Manufacturing, an expert in robotic material removal systems, with input from commercial maintenance repair & overhaul (MRO) and US DoD repair centres for aircraft engines. 

The development partners say that the cell, which has capacity to repair 85,000 titanium compressor blades per year, provides a compelling ROI when compared to traditional CNC machines and manual TIG welding.

The cell consists of three stations that enable blade tip grinding, laser cladding and post-clad finishing, with each capable of automatically adjusting its tool paths to accommodate blade-to-blade variations caused by normal wear and distortion during service. It also includes an automated pallet loading/unloading station, a pallet flipping station, and a robotic material handling system. Working in tandem, the systems in the work cell provide a productive real-world implementation of Industry 4.0 and digital thread concepts.

One of the three stations, an Optomec CS-250 five-axis laser cladding machine, will be used to produce high-quality, high-yield precision welds for titanium compressor blades. This will be done via Optopmec’s LENS directed energy deposition (DED) and AutoCLAD advanced vision and adaptive tool-pathing technology, in a controlled argon atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the Acme Manufacturing MRO blade tip repair machines in the cell can be configured for blade tip grinding, weld blending, and polishing. The systems are equipped with auto path generation functionality that allows for a high-mix, low-volume environment. This new technology is three- to four- times faster than traditional CNC machines, according to Acme Manufacturing.

Jamie Hanson, VP of Business Development at Optomec, stated: “Demanding repair requirements, driven by commercial and DoD repair centres, has led us to enhance our DED capabilities to enable high-volume, high-yield repair for compressor blades, an especially challenging objective for titanium parts. Our collaboration with Acme Manufacturing has brought together complementary technologies that provide a compelling business case for customers.”

G.A. Carlson III, President & CEO of Acme Manufacturing, added: “Acme has delivered over 200 robotic material removal systems to the aerospace industry in the past 35 years, largely for new part manufacturing. By utilising efficient and repeatable robotic finishing technology, we will be able to enable MRO engine repair centres to improve overall component quality and help lower unit costs. I am excited about our teams’ developments in auto path generation, which allows us to enter a new market of automated material removal systems.”