AV&R Aerospace has just commercially launched its new robotic solution for polishing gas turbine blades to improve aerodynamic efficiency. The solution, which was developed over three years of beta testing, robotically polishes a gas turbine blade’s foil, platform and fillet radius according to a customer’s tolerances and surface finish requirements.
According to Éric Beauregard, Executive VP, AV&R Aerospace, the need for consistency in polishing is crucial thanks to more tightly shaped blade tolerances on new, high-efficiency aircraft engines such as the LEAP and geared turbofan. “OEMs are looking to eliminate manual benching as soon as possible,” says Beauregard. “If a human polishes too hard, they could scratch something on the blade.”
In addition to higher levels of consistency, the robotic polishing solution offers repeatability, time savings and quality assurance through combining automated inspection and validation within the same system. The robot’s programming was developed through AV&R Aerospace’s BrainWave software, which allows operators without robotics expertise to program and fine tune parameters and parts. Beauregard says the system has an advantage over competitors’ systems, which leave customers dependent on the robot integrator or robotics experts for programming. “It allows a plug-and-play approach,” says Beauregard. “It’s a tool that has simplified the life of the programmers and the users.”
According to Beauregard, the commercial launch is the first step in mastering efficiency and consistency of removing a fixed amount of material from gas turbine blades in a controlled environment. He says the next big step for AV&R Aerospace, scheduled for next fall, is to be adaptive. This will entail adapting the recipe for each part to eliminate variations in the process and account for wear and tear on forging and machining equipment. “When you have a blade come in, you measure and you adapt your recipe. The recipe will always change part to part,” says Beauregard. “Our goal is to adapt to each part.”
Two major engine OEMs have already signed up for the robotic polishing solution and Beauregard says AV&R Aerospace will be looking to develop a similar solution to automate deburring on jet engine blades.