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Advanced Manufacturing

Predictive Models for Ceramic Additive Manufacturing

Company Name: Renaissance Services
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: Fairborn, OH
Website: http://www.ren-services.com/
Email: Dan Z. Sokol, Managing Partner;
dzsokol@ren-services.com
Award Amount: $317,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

CRITICAL NEED

Turbine engines are the most powerful form of propulsion in the world, powering commercial airliners, rockets and military jets. Advanced turbine airfoil technologies depend upon complex cooling channels within the high temperature blades and vanes to maintain temperatures within the safe operating range of metal alloys. Small increases in operating temperature obtained with these innovative cooling channels can lead to billions of dollars in annual savings in fuel as well as reduced carbon emissions. These complex cooling channels require porous ceramic cores to form the internal pathways during the metal casting process. Current development of these intricate ceramic cores is a lengthy and expensive process involving customized dies for each new turbine airfoil design.

Renaissance Services has developed methodologies to fabricate cores for turbine airfoils using ceramic additive manufacturing — popularly referred to as 3D-printing — to significantly reduce the time from design to production for turbine blades, vanes, and seals. The current additive manufacturing process has undesirably low yields because of cracking and deformation that occurs during the subsequent thermal processing required to make ceramic cores. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has experience in addressing issues with thermal processing of porous materials and will assist the company in improving yields during thermal processing of 3D-printed ceramics. Understanding and improving the thermal processing is expected to improve production yield, which will reduce costs and significantly improve the commercial viability of an innovative manufacturing approach for turbine components.


PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES

Traditional methods for producing ceramic cores used in casting turbine components can require six months of development time to fabricate metal dies and can cost an estimated $750,000 for complex designs. An additive manufacturing approach shortens this time significantly and avoids the cost and time for fabricating dies. The additive manufacturing process also enables the design of more complex and intricate ceramic core geometries than can be obtained with the traditional approach. With ceramic additive manufacturing, core designs can be modified and fabricated for evaluation in potentially as little as one week.

POTENTIAL IMPACT

Economy:
Reducing design and production time for advanced turbines could significantly reduce costs for industrial, commercial and military applications. Additionally, fuel efficiency gains can allow operators to save money on fuel.

Environment:
Reduced fuel use in air travel could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Air travel is a growing source of such emissions.

Security:
Military applications for turbine technology include fighter jets, other advanced aircraft, and rockets. Reducing the time from design to testing to application in the field gives planners and engineers greater flexibility and helps them retain the United States' technological edge in military technology.


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