Taking flight with precision laser processing
Aerospace companies are looking for ways to improve energy and fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, like businesses in many industries, and more efficient automation technologies to improve machine designs are helping with that. Airlines have adopted a voluntary goal to reduce fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions by at least 25% from 2005 levels by 2020, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website.
Many factors can affect the amount of fuel an aircraft burns, so airlines have taken a multi-faceted approach to identifying technologies that will help them to use fuel more efficiently. One valuable design technique is the use of effusion cooling holes in an engine. These very small holes (0.5 to 0.75 mm) are placed at acute compound angles as low as 10 degrees from the surface in high-temperature alloys. Newer engines will demand denser patterns and more complex holes for more efficient cooling. The aerospace industry has long relied on the precision of laser technology over traditional metal forming, metal cutting, or drilling process options to create these effusion cooling holes.
Industrial laser redesign
Prima Power Laserdyne, based in Champlin, Minn., provides precision standard, multi-axis laser material processing (cutting, welding, and drilling) systems. To meet customer demand for a smaller footprint, Prima Power Laserdyne wanted to create a more compact version of its BeamDirector laser machine. The result was the Laserdyne 430 BeamDirector. This system incorporates the unique BeamDirector rotary tilt laser processing head, which produces precise effusion cooling holes at shallow and complex angles in a smaller, more floor-space-efficient system platform.
Creating a smaller machine meant that the components within the control cabinet needed to be compact and easy-to-use but still maintain high reliability and accuracy. The cabinet required numerous cables and bundles of wire, so the wiring had to be compact and modular. A quick disconnect would make the end machine easier to ship to the customer.
The updated machine design incorporated numerous new products, including terminal blocks that have push-in spring technology, which provided quick and easy actuation when terminating wires and improved modularity, making it easy to disconnect the control panel from the machine for shipping.
Safety and reliability are critical to the end customer. The safety controller has a small footprint and the ability to monitor the motion control watchdog pulse of the computer numerical control (CNC). The safety software program monitors laser integration, emergency stop, and door safety switches to reduce risk within the machine environment. The 24 V power supply and circuit protectors increase system reliability. Programmable logic controller (PLC) relays are bused together to reduce wiring and to switch the heavier loads on the machine. The system relies on Ethernet switches for machine status and communication.
The new components saved significant space, increasing room within the control panel. Single company sourcing created synergy within the control cabinet and simplified the purchasing process through one distributor.
Better fuel efficiency means higher profits for the airline industry. As fuel prices increase, laser processing will become even more important. The multi-axis laser machine will help aerospace manufacturers minimize floor space without sacrificing the quality and precision they need.
– Michael Vittori is an electrical designer from Prima Power Laserdyne. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, email@example.com.
- The aerospace industry uses laser machining for metal forming, metal cutting, and drilling to create effusion cooling holes for higher efficiency and less fuel consumption.
- More compact laser machines have higher reliability and fit in a smaller space, meeting customer demands.
- Updated automation helps with that.
What efficiencies can you offer customers through a machine redesign with new automation components?
This article online, also available at www.controleng.com/archives October, has more information including a Phoenix Contact parts list for this project, below.
The following product information and links are provided as an online extra to the article appearing above in the Control Engineering Inside Machines article collection, October 2014.
Multi-axis laser application product list
Prima Power Laserdyne 430 BeamDirector includes the following products from Phoenix Contact.
- PT spring Combi plugs offer push-in spring technology for quick and easy actuation when terminating wires, modularity, and easy disconnection of the control panel from the machine for shipping.
- PSR-Trisafe safety controller was chosen for its small footprint and the ability to monitor the motion control watchdog pulse of the computer numerical control (CNC).
- Safeconf software program monitors laser integration, emergency stop, and door safety switches for a safe machine environment.
- Quint SFB 24 V power supply and UT6-TMC circuit protectors increase system reliability.
- FL SFN Ethernet switches provide machine status and communication. Rather than issuing multiple purchase orders for the redesigned Laserdyne, Prima Power could consolidate its vendor base through Power/mation, its distributor, and Phoenix Contact.
International Air Transport Association, "Operational Fuel Efficiency," 2014