10 Industrial Laser Solutions JULY/AUGUST 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com
To address concerns about overall efficiency and metallurgical quality, hole drilling processes require maximization of machining speed, while improving control of the
machining depth and location accuracy of each detail.
The five-axis MCS 500 system (FIGURE 5) integrates LMJ
technology with a Makino-based platform. It is specifi-
cally designed for 3D machining and drilling of cooling
holes in industrial gas turbine components. Super-alloy
turbine blades with thermal barrier coating can be processed in one step, without cracks in the ceramic coating
and extremely low recast in the metal structure.
As recently reported by GE Power, the technology
team at the Advanced Manufacturing Works (AMW) facility (Greenville, SC) uses this system to drill cooling holes
and diffusers that improve the overall performance of gas
turbines. The AMW GE manager is also projecting labor
savings of up to seven hours per part.
New wonder material
GE Aviation and GE Power have pioneered in developing ceramic-matrix composites (CMCs) to replace cer-
tain metal components in hot sections of jet engines and
gas turbines. Components made of ceramic-matrix composites are one-third the weight of those made with metal
alloys. They also allow gas turbines and jet engines to run
hotter because their chemical properties allow them to
reach higher temperatures without failing. Engines with
these parts could run more efficiently and help reduce
the overall weight of airplanes, which helps them to lower
fuel burn and emissions while increasing their efficiency
in the future.
Indeed, GE’s CMCs can operate at temperatures
exceeding the capability of current nickel alloys typically used in
high-pressure turbines. Metal parts require extensive dedicated
cooling air, which directly takes away from the primary engine airflow and reduces efficiency. CMCs, which are one-third the weight
of nickel, can operate with little or no cooling, providing a significant efficiency boost to the cycle.
“GE has been very persistent in investing internal resources
to push the CMC technology,” said Jenn-Ming Yang, a materials
science professor at the University of California at Los Angeles
(UCLA). “Initially, they were trying to use CMCs in gas turbine
engines for electricity production, and I think
they have built up enough competence and
experience to push it into engines for aircraft.”
GE Aviation is the first company to introduce
heat-resistant, lightweight CMC components
into the hot section of commercial jet engines.
It has set up a supply chain to mass-produce CMC components
from a raw materials plant in Huntsville, AL, to full-scale produc-
tion in Asheville, NC. The production facility in Asheville is already
using LMJ laser technology to machine 3D CMC components to
final dimensions. Meanwhile, the GE Power technology team in
Greenville has also found that the MCS 500 system is especially
suited for machining CMC components.
GE Power has gone a step further. It has developed patents
based on LMJ technology to achieve higher productivity in laser
machining of turbine parts. This partnership between supplier and
user can only result in an expanded use of this laser technology to
machine components for gas turbines and jet engines. ✺
Laser MicroJet is a registered trademark of Synova.
NITIN SHANKAR ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a business development consultant for Synova,
Duillier, Switzerland ( www.synova.ch), and has been a contributor to ILS.
FIGURE 5. The
Synova MCS 500