Lufthansa Technik (LHT) continues to innovate the process of aircraft cleaning with its latest technology introduction—the world’s first automated steam cleaning system for engine heat exchangers. The in-house development, which is currently called “CLEAR,” was born out of the desire to improve the previous cleaning process that LHT says was long and sometimes provided insufficient results.
Development of CLEAR took place at LHT’s facilities in Hamburg, Germany. The system provides a fully automated cleaning process that can be adjusted specifically to every heat exchanger and its level of contamination. The previous cleaning process for heat exchangers entailed manual washing with chemical cleaning agents during engine overhauls, which LHT says was cumbersome and time-consuming—taking an average of 16 hours. CLEAR can completely clean all heat exchangers in approximately one hour, according to LHT. The company says CLEAR can effortlessly remove “even the most persistent dirt” and that heat exchangers regain their original performance levels after cleaning, so particularly dirty heat exchangers no longer need to be scrapped and replaced with new ones.
Another drawback to the previous method of cleaning with chemicals was high cost for the disposal of cleaning agents. LHT says that in addition to providing a more efficient cleaning process, CLEAR saves resources and protects the environment.
The cleaning system, which is the first of its kind incorporated within LHT’s Digital Shop Floor, is equipped with an interface that provides a variety of IoT applications. A spokesperson for LHT says there will be tools available for users such as shops, engineering and maintenance, as well as other connected technologies such as Digital Assistance Systems. By linking CLEAR to the Digital Shop Floor, engineers will be able to determine from their workstations when the cleaning process is complete and a heat exchanger is ready to be reinstalled in the engine.
According to LHT, the cleaning method has been classified as patentable by the German Patent Office and the company is in the process of patenting the process internationally. A spokesperson says there are plans in place to transfer the technology knowledge to other cleaning activities at LHT. The company did not indicate whether there are plans to make the system commercially available.
CLEAR is not the first innovative cleaning technology LHT has debuted this year. In July, the company debuted a waterless engine wash procedure called Cyclean Dry Ice, which uses blasts of dry ice pellets to dislodge dirt. The technology is set to go on the market in 2019.