A red-letter day for test cell 3

A red-letter day for test cell 3

As if by magic, the heavy steel door of the test cell slides open, music is playing and a veil of theatrical fog is rising. The women and men from the test cell team then emerge triumphantly from the midst of the foggy haze. As Wednesday’s presentation reached its climax, the guests felt as if they had been transported to a scene from a Hollywood action movie. When the big moment came for the engine being tested in test cell building 208 to finally be revealed, the guests in the shop broke into a round of applause. Emcee Christiane Rudzinski then welcomed Dr. Joachim Wulf, chief engineer, technology demonstrators, to the stage. “It is a great pleasure for me to present you the Clean Sky SAGE 4 technology program more or less at its climax – amidst an exciting test program that for sure is one of the highlights of my professional career as an engineer,” he said.

And, of course, the milestone reached marked a red-letter day for MTU Aero Engines as well.

More than 100 guests gathered in the rigging room of test cell 3 at MTU in Munich on Wednesday: Important representatives from politics, business, the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking with executive director Eric Dautriat leading the party, universities, research institutes and partner companies involved in the program. Also present was Dr. Helmut Greinke, permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. They had all come to take a closer look at the SAGE 4 demonstrator engine being subjected to testing, with MTU being the responsible party for the tests.

SAGE stands for Sustainable And Green Engines: SAGE 4 is one of five technology demonstrator programs being pursued by the SAGE consortium. The objective of MTU’s activities under the Clean Sky European research program is to validate new technologies using the engine demonstrator based on the PW1500G, technologies for instance for the A320neo performance improvement program. Clean Sky is the most ambitious aeronautical research program ever to be co-funded by the EU: More than 600 partners have joined forces to develop new, greener technologies for aviation.

“SAGE 4 is based on the highly advanced geared turbofan engine”, explained MTU chief operating officer Dr. Rainer Martens in his opening speech. “I’m pleased to say that under the Clean Sky project we not only developed new technologies, but took on responsibility for a complete demonstrator engine.” Martens looked back to when it all began in 2008: “We soon realized that we haven’t yet made full use of the geared turbofan’s potential. And today we can proudly present the outcome of our efforts: SAGE 4, a geared turbofan incorporating the latest in high-pressure compressor and low-pressure turbine technologies.” Again, applause.

The specific purpose of the engine demonstrator test runs is to verify the maturity of numerous technologies, the objective being to incorporate these technologies into the next generation of GTFs. The focus is on new airfoil and case designs and on lighter-weight and more temperature-resistant materials and components produced using advanced processes such as additive manufacturing. A brush seal developed by MTU that offers significantly improved sealing action is also being tested.

“This MTU-led project in the Sustainable and Green Engines platform is a very good example of how a recent engine concept may still be improved through the implementation of a series of new technologies,” said Clean Sky’s executive director Dautriat. He expressed his thanks to MTU for the hard work and congratulated the company on the achievement.

Wulf then continued, outlining the activities being pursued as part of the ongoing test campaign. Three of the six test blocks have been completed. “We not only want to understand the behavior of our technologies in regular operating conditions, but also beyond the limits of the defined engine requirements – this means higher speeds, higher temperatures or exceptional contact situations.”

As soon as all of the test runs are completed, the data logged will be evaluated in detail, this analysis being expected to be carried out over the first few months of next year. When Clean Sky 1 ends in late 2016, the technologies will “be available to support the next step in the evolution of the current geared turbofan shortly afterwards,” as Wulf put it.

Alongside its SAGE 4 activities, MTU is preparing for the successor program, Clean Sky 2. To test these new technologies, MTU will again be using demonstrators, which will be put through their paces in the test facility between 2017 and 2020 to prove their capabilities. Perhaps that will be another occasion for a big presentation ceremony in Munich - watch this space.

Text: Philipp Schneider