Leading Technology Roadmap
Progress in engine construction essentially depends on whether manufacturers succeed in improving the key physical parameters—propulsion efficiency and thermal efficiency—as well as weight and reliability. MTU’s development efforts are targeted at all these parameters,
with a focus on optimizing fuel consumption, reducing harmful emissions and noise, and bringing down production and maintenance costs. Some 150 technology projects are currently underway at MTU, feeding into its Leading Technology Roadmap which charts the company’s planned course through 2030. MTU’s focus is on refining and optimizing its high-pressure compressor, high-speed low-pressure turbine, and turbine center frame. In addition to new and lightweight high-temperature materials and groundbreaking approaches to production, key technologies include additive manufacturing and virtual engine design. In what it calls pilot concepts, the company is defining developments that will extend beyond 2030.
Materials used in the next generation of engines have to be lightweight and heat-resistant. Achieving weight savings of ten percent and sustaining temperature increases of several hundred degrees is a job only first-rate metals and completely new material classes can accomplish. MTU has an excellent basis from which to develop high-temperature materials and ready them for large-scale production. Here, MTU is focusing on intermetallics and ceramic composites.
Additive manufacturing, also known as industrial 3D printing, is taking one industrial sector after the next by storm. In engine manufacturing, MTU has achieved a breakthrough as one of the first companies in the industry to manufacture components using selective laser melting (SLM) on an industrial scale, namely borescope bosses for the Geared Turbofan™ engine that powers the A320neo.
In SLM, the 3D model of the component is “sliced” into individual layers on a computer. A laser then melts powdered material to form the component layer by layer. This method now makes it possible to produce complex components that were previously extremely difficult, if not impossible, to manufacture with conventional techniques—using only small amounts of material and few tools. Development, production and delivery times are all reduced as a result.
MTU is prioritizing the development of additive methods in its technology projects and programs. In addition to new designs, the company is focusing on new materials and on expanding the range of components it produces using additive methods. Potential candidates include bearing housings, brackets and struts. As part of Clean Sky, the most ambitious technology initiative ever launched in Europe, MTU is working on producing a seal carrier using additive processes. The inner ring with integrated honeycombs will be installed in the high-pressure compressor, contributing to a significant reduction in weight.
Virtual design and manufacturing
In the age of Industry 4.0, MTU is rolling out a comprehensive digital transformation program across the whole company. Its long-term goal is to connect the various steps of the value chain, from product development to manufacturing to maintenance, and map them virtually as well—enabling the company to develop and produce increasingly complex products more quickly and efficiently. There is a visible shift toward the use of simulation techniques in materials development and production, which eliminates the need for time- and cost-intensive testing.
With its Life Cycle Engineering approach, MTU is aiming to thoroughly digitalize all its engineering processes. In addition to the real component, the company creates a digital twin, which stores all the component’s development and life cycle data. A “digital factory” integrates all technologies, production processes and tool developments—as well as all value streams—to form an intelligently connected production system.