The US Air Force (USAF) Research Laboratory (AFRL) Materials and Manufacturing Directorate is set to enhance the turbine engine inspection process, in a bid to offer a cost-effective maintenance of the fleet.
As part of this development, researches in AFRL transitioned the Sonic Infrared (SIR) non-destructive evaluation inspection method for turbine engine airfoils.
Developed by Florida Turbine Technologies for AFRL, the new system will be able to replace traditional inspection methods for crack detection, such as fluorescent penetrant inspection (FPI).
The SIR inspection will see the use of ultrasonic waves to vibrate the part and create friction between crack faces. It will create a tiny amount of heat that can be detected using highly-sensitive infrared cameras.
AFRL project engineer Siamack Mazdiyasni said that the SIR inspections will allow aircraft maintainers to often return engine airfoils to service, rather than replacing them.
The initial target application for this technology is turbine engine compressor blades and researchers expect that keeping these engine components in service would offer at least $5m in annual savings.
Moreover, it will also offer reduction in the amount of chemicals purchased, used, and disposed annually.
According to researchers, the environmentally-friendly SIR inspection will also take less time to complete as well as saves labour hours. It also has the potential to detect smaller cracks than FPI.
Recently, AFRL transitioned this inspection method to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base. The method will be further refined, qualified, and readied for implementation.
Meanwhile, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center has expressed plans to merge the technology into their automated airfoil inspection and repair initiative.
According to Mazdiyasni, future plans include investigating the technology for other engine components including coated parts and fracture critical parts.