Turbine Technology Days 2019

Process chains for efficient turbine production

Hugely popular once again and now in its seventh year, the Turbine Technology Days 2019 in Rorschacherberg attracted 200 leaders in the aerospace and energy industry, keen to find out about solutions for managing turbine production with greater productivity and reliability. They were optimally taken care of by Starrag and event partner Blaser Swisslube – with the presentation of numerous functioning process chains that enable huge savings to be made in the production of blisks, blades and impellers.

The demands placed on turbine production are constantly increasing in terms of the materials to be machined, the tolerances to be adhered to and, above all, the resulting unit costs. At the Turbine Technology Days 2019, keynote speaker Colin Sirett, CEO of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield, noted how turbine machining is extremely inefficient – especially in the case of blisks. Far too many steps are still performed manually, such as handling materials between the individual operations or surface finishing, which cost valuable time and involve risks. To manage the growth that is predicted in this industry over the next ten years, he continued, we need to rethink manufacturing processes and install new automated processes.


Turbine Technology Days 2019

The best for blisks – on the new Starrag BAZ NB 151, visitors at the Turbine Technology Days 2019 saw for themselves how better roughing, finishing and accessibility can be achieved.

Dr Christian Walti, CEO of the Starrag Group, adds: “The Paris Air Show for the aviation and space industry took place shortly before our turbine event. There was much to learn about how positively the aerospace industry is developing and how hard OEMs and suppliers are searching for solutions to make their production processes more efficient.” But he is seeing the energy sector take great interest in further optimizing the efficiency of turbine production too.

This provides the perfect basis for successful business – since Starrag has already been aligning itself with customers’ needs for a long time now. 

Walti explains: “We take a holistic approach. This means that selling machines is not our primary concern. We prioritize delivering production systems that offer customers a long-term benefit. This is why we are expanding our range horizontally, as well as working closely with premium partners, who play an important role in the whole process.”

One such partner is the coolant manufacturer Blaser Swisslube, who collaborated on this year's event. CEO Marc Blaser remarks: “We take a holistic approach like this too, focusing on customers and their needs. In this respect, joining forces with Starrag is a great opportunity as we have already spent many years working together on numerous technical research projects and developments.” The aim, he explains, is to show both existing and potential customers how closely co-ordinating machine tools, tools and coolants create solutions that enable customers to make substantial and sustainable progress.

Blisk manufacturing in a single step

The hosts created a total of 13 stations, all with a focus on processes. Even at the world premiere of the NB 151 5-axis machining center, which rounds off Starrag’s specialized Blisk machining range, the emphasis was on process advantages. After all, the machine is designed for the complete, rapid and reliable machining of blisks and impellers in a single step.

20% more productive than standard solutions

The 5-axis Starrag BAZ NB 151 is suitable for the complete machining of blisks and impellers weighing up to 661 lbs and measuring up to 23.62 in in diameter and 11.42 in in length. A special feature of this machine are the two circular axes, which are developed and manufactured by Starrag in-house.

Dr Bernhard Bringmann, Head of the Starrag plant in Rorschach, explains: “With our NB 151, we also offer highly productive roughing cycles, which are in turn only possible as a result of advanced tool developments and optimized coolants. The machine is also designed for the efficient smoothing of blisks with high dynamics and precision, with the result that the entire blisk machining process is around 20% more productive than standard solutions.”

The coolant, a key factor for success

Both partners demonstrated the hidden potential of coolant, which Blaser likes to describe as a ‘liquid tool’, on the somewhat larger NB 251 blisk machining center. It was adapted by Starrag for machining with oil and produced remarkable results during roughing trials using TiAl6V4 with an indexable insert milling cutter. For example, after 30 minutes of machining time, around 40% less wear was measured on the indexable inserts compared to machining with emulsion.

Unique, simple, standalone automation

A Starrag LX 021 machining center helped visitors understand how to minimize downtimes. The smallest model in the LX series, which was developed for the highly precise, efficient, simultaneous 5-axis machining of turbine blades, is designed for the complete machining of a compressor blade. The machine loads and unloads the parts automatically from a pallet storage system, enabling this process – which is normally carried out manually – to be completed in a matter of seconds. A special device is responsible for repositioning the workpiece between base machining and blade machining, thus saving even more time.

Starrag has a wealth of experience in automation, including with regard to multi-machine systems and Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS). Starrag has been carrying out such turnkey projects for manufacturing turbine blades and structural components in Rorschacherberg for over twenty years, using a wide variety of Starrag Group machines. It is these FMS that prove Starrag’s extensive process expertise. Numerous elements – special carbide cutters, fixtures, the RCS CAM system, blade machining components and control center software – are the result of Starrag’s own innovations. For other components, Starrag relies on the proven expertise of its selected partners, whose products – including grinding machines, tool systems and software solutions – complete the process chain. A number of them also had exhibition stands at the Turbine Technology Days to hold discussions with visitors and share their technical expertise.