Morgan Advanced Materials (Worcestershire, England) has developed a proprietary leachable material which significantly cuts investment casting times in turbine engine blades by up to 20%.
The development comes as the commercial aerospace industry is facing a significant overhaul. According to Market Research Future, the Commercial Aircraft Turbine Blades and Vanes Market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 6% by 2023.
High fuel prices, stricter regulations on noise and carbon dioxide emissions, and an increase in competition from low-cost carriers are forcing manufacturers to develop modern aero-engines that are lightweight and fuel efficient.
To help aerospace investment casting businesses meet this surge in demand, the Technical Ceramics business of Morgan Advanced Materials has developed the LEMA range of proprietary alumina-based materials. The new material shortens leaching cycles for alumina core support rods used in the production of turbine engine blades, while still providing the mechanical strength needed for production.
Typical alumina rods are renowned for their strength and load bearing capabilities. However, it can take several days to fully leach the materials, resulting in delays within the production process. In comparison, like-for-like LEMA 250 parts will experience approximately a 20% mass reduction after 20 hours (at 300F [149C] and 185 psi). A comparable alumina part to LEMA 250 does not show any mass loss under the same conditions.
“At a time when demand for turbine engine blades is expected to grow substantially over the next few years, the enhanced leachability of LEMA rods have been developed at exactly the right moment to help shorten processing times for casting manufacturers,” said Jennifer Kachala, product engineer at Morgan’s Technical Ceramics business. “Investment casting businesses will need to prove they can meet demand for the ramping build schedules of new engine programs. LEMA can help them achieve this while saving on costs.”
The enhanced leachability of LEMA drives more cost and time savings. While quartz support rods can offer a cost-effective solution to alumina in terms of leachability, they do not have the mechanical strength of LEMA. This makes them less suitable for applications where part geometries and alloys require higher strength support rods. LEMA components are approximately 1.5 times stronger than quartz equivalents.
“The global investment casting industry has experienced the pain point of long production times for years due to legacy materials and leaching processes. Morgan has overcome this challenge with LEMA,” Kachala said. “Our new material for support rods has been extensively tested, optimised to deliver strength and shorten production times, reducing cycle times and costs in casting turbine blades.”
“As a result, our customers can now meet growing demand, with improved quality for the aerospace and industrial gas turbine industries.”