Japan has long been famous for the public-private partnerships to advance technologies, and it is increasingly applying this approach to aviation.
For example, the Tokyo Metropolitan Industrial Technology Research Institute (TIRI) has an Aviation Industry Support Laboratory that works closely with Japanese aerospace firms and helps develop innovative techniques, including techniques for manufacturing aircraft parts being outsourced by U.S. PMA holders.
“TIRI has been working with a production consortium as an integrator, designing production processes by weaving various kind of production trades such as precise machining, heat treating, surface treating and other techniques,” explains Jay Kato, president of JK Tech Consulting and a special advisor to TIRI’s aviation laboratory. “A secondary role is to co-develop innovational techniques with subject matter experts.”
One example of this innovation is developing press forming of titanium sheet used for engine parts at mid-range temperatures around 300 degrees Celsius. “That has not been tried by anyone else, we believe,” Kato says. “It is usually done at 700 degrees Celsius by the conventional press method.”
In its additive manufacturing work, TIRI has not yet worked on producing aircraft parts. Instead it has been collaborating with experts on general-industry additive production, for example developing molds of a turbofan widely applicable to automobiles, air conditioners and computers. For this general additive production, TIRI has been using both polymers and metal powders.
Kato notes that additive metal production is still in a mostly experimental stage for aircraft engines. Engine manufactures have started using additive methods for static parts, for example GE’s fuel nozzle. However, “it is very hard to create high-speed rotational parts by additive manufacturing, because those structures do not have the high tensile strength and fatigue strength of forged steel.”