Under the $1.5m contract, Optomec will develop metal additive manufacturing system, which will help repair the parts.
The integrally bladed rotors (IBR), also known as the blisks, are single-piece compressor rotors that often gets damaged or worn out in the normal use.
Cost of replacing each of the lightweight, titanium-alloy blisks can amount to more than $500,000, noted the company.
With Optomec’s additive repair process, the USAF is expected to save more than 80% of the total repair cost, including tens of millions of dollars in annual investment.
The contract will see Optomec deliver and induct a five-axis LENS/DED metal printer, along with a work envelope of 5ft x 5ft x 3ft, which can handle blisks with diameter of up to 46in.
In addition, the system includes a proprietary gas purification system, which is required when depositing titanium to ensure superior metallurgical properties.
The gas purification system can maintain a moisture-free environment (<10ppm).
The company will examine different process monitoring techniques’ efficacy. The techniques are used to track main variables, which serve as measure for quality assurance and verification.
The project will also showcase feasible repairs for large blisks, as well as the restoration of foreign object damage (FOD) and representative wear across several areas of individual blades.
Optomec will also repair different sections of an aircraft’s large scale blisk for spin fit testing, which will be the primary step for qualification.
Optomec business development vice-president Jamie Hanson said: “Optomec is best positioned to deliver production solutions to this growing need, based on its proprietary machine, software and process capabilities, combined with its existing position as the market leader delivering machines for production repair of individual turbine blades.”