Independent study concludes 180% ROI on automated gas turbine repair

New Mexico-based 3D printing solutions provider, Optomec, has released an independent study showing the validity of automated laser cladding for gas turbine engine repairs.

The study, conducted by Terry VanderWert, a 40-year veteran in laser process technologies, was commissioned by Optomec and concludes the automated metal additive manufacturing solution could provide a 180% ROI over the manual processes used today.

Aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul

Reliability and quality are critical in the aviation industry. Aircraft are in operation for longer to counteract the shortage of viable aircraft models, putting pressure on maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) service centers to optimize their efficiency and work quality.

Leading aviation publication, Aviation Week, even named part shortage as a key trend in its top ten MRO market predictions for 2020.

View inside an aviation hangar. Image via Optomec.
View inside an aviation hangar. Image via Optomec.

Automated laser cladding for gas turbines

The study aims to deliver a better understanding of how automated laser cladding has helped MRO service centers and aircraft engine manufacturers make faster repairs while retaining high standards.

The information provided in the study includes a thorough comparison of manual welding techniques and automated laser cladding technology for blade tip and Z-form repair. This is made up of quality comparisons, cost comparisons, and in-depth ROI comparisons. The study also details other relevant business considerations such as the need for a process that can adapt to different components, post-cladding metal finishing techniques, and optimized practices in developing repair tool path programs.

Mike Dean, Marketing Director at Optomec, stated: “The world’s leading aviation companies use automated laser cladding for Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) – yet roughly 80% of all blade and vane repair is still done manually today. The goal of this paper was to show how small and mid-size service centers can take advantage of laser cladding while achieving an ROI on their investment and improving MRO quality.”

Automated laser cladding process. Image via Optomec.
Automated laser cladding process. Image via Optomec.

The results of the study, along with sample parts demonstrating the laser cladding technology, will be on display at the MRO Americas 2020 Convention from April 28-30 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.

The study is titled The Business Case for Automated Laser Cladding in Aviation Component Repair: Five Lessons Learned.

Optomec’s LENS AM systems has previously been used to produce rocket engine parts to support NASA’s future moon missions. The company’s AM solutions also enable 3D printed copper parts using its LENS system, useful for heat exchangers and other high-conductivity applications.

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows view inside an aviation hangar. Image via Optomec.