The Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force base has awarded Optomec a $500,000 process development contract for the Additive Repair of jet engine components used in the F-15 and F-16 fighters.
The company will harness its LENS 3D Metal Additive Manufacturing technique based on powder-fed Directed Energy Deposition (DED), combining it with advanced vision and distortion compensation software, Controlled Atmosphere processing and batch automation using oxygen-free material handling.
Optomec will focus on developing optimized process parameters and procedures to repair turbine blades made from both titanium and nickel-based superalloys.
These printable ‘recipes’ and ‘libraries’ will be implemented in conjunction with the delivery of an automated Turbine Blade Repair machine. The program has a projected ROI of 184% and a payback period of less than 2 years, potentially saving the Air Force millions of dollars in maintaining its fleet of more than 5,000 aircraft, which have an average age of 28 years.
Optomec’s Additive Manufacturing repair processes are currently used in high volume production for other turbine engine parts worldwide, having repaired more than 10 million components over the last 20 years.
This contract will extend Optomec’s capability with regard to high-volume titanium repair which must be conducted in oxygen-free environments to ensure proper metallurgy and mechanical performance. Titanium demand in aircraft engines is increasing in both the military and commercial aviation markets.
“The turbine industry has already widely adopted Optomec’s automated DED solution for high volume nickel alloy repair of aviation parts; meanwhile Optomec has worked out the process recipes for titanium repair,” said Jamie Hanson, VP of Business Development.
“This solution essentially takes Optomec’s titanium repair process to high volume levels where it will have a major impact on lowering maintenance costs as engine OEMs use more and more titanium.”