posted on February 01, 2006 15:39
Engine development and manufacturing relies heavily on the use of superalloy materials in temperature critical components such as turbine blades and associated vanes. Turbine Technologies is unique in that it has the ability to cast these materials in-house utilizing its own vacuum investment casting foundry. The Company has traditionally designed and manufactured specialty molds to produce the wax investments required of the casting process. Mold making is time consuming and expensive, particularly when frequent design changes are necessary.
The Company has just completed a major investment in a relatively new technology that should prove to accelerate the casting process for current and future development work. The process employs a special polymer resin that serves as the investment and can be consummed by high-heat much like wax. To form the resin into the shape of the desired part, a rapid prototyping sterolithography apparatus, otherwise known as an SLA machine, is used to generate a full-scale, 3-dimensional model of the desired part. Engineering CAD models can be downloaded directly into the SLA machine to create this part. The actual build process requires only a few short hours and then the part is ready for shell building just as would be done with a wax investment.
The time savings afforded by not having to create wax investments in considerable. Several different design geometries can be produced simultaneously with the SLA machine allowing multiple part iterrations to be created in a single casting run. This greatly accelerates the engine component development process and allows various concepts to be tested in a short period of time.