A five-axis laser-machining process forms complex geometries into gas-turbine blades and vanes with a level of accuracy previously possible only with EDM.
Laser machining to replace some EDM
Winbro Group Technology in the U.K. (winbrogroup.com), developers of Lasemill, says laser machining costs less and more quickly creates complex features in aerospace and industrial gas turbines. The laser-machining process can also manufacture and repair hard-metal parts even if they are ceramic coated.
The main application of the machine is expected to be in the precision drilling of holes for air cooling in stainless steel, titanium, and nickel components. This is a critical process because the aim is to create as many holes as possible in the part without jeopardizing its structural integrity. Furthermore, drilling usually takes place in final production so each part already has a high value. For example, the cost of scrapping a single part in one project was an estimated $20,000.
Machining speed is as critical as accuracy. Any delay in delivering engines for new aircraft can bring financial penalties. Similarly, component repairs must take place quickly because there's lost revenue for each day a plane spends on the ground.
The developer plans to supply the Lasemill complete with the fiveaxis laser-machining center, jigs and fixtures, and Delcam NC software. Project Manager Mike Wakeham said his team chose Delcam because it can model an array of holes, develop machining paths for the laser, and handle data from various CAD systems. "The NC software also offered more options for customization so we could automate parts of the programming process," he says.