The concept of the MERLIN project is to reduce the environmental impact of air transport using Additive Manufacturing techniques in the manufacture of civil aero engines.
MERLIN will develop Additive Manufacturing techniques, at the level 1 stage, to allow environmental benefits including near 100% material utilisation, current buy to fly ratios result in massive amounts of waste, no toxic chemical usage and no tooling costs, to impact the manufacture of future aero engine components.
All of these factors will drastically reduce emissions across the life-cycle of the parts. There will also be added in-service benefits because of the design freedom in Additive Manufacturing. Light-weighting, and the performance improvement of parts will result in reduced fuel consumption and reduced emissions. MERLIN will seek to develop the state-of-the-art by producing higher performance additive manufactured parts in a more productive, consistent, measurable, environmentally friendly and cost effective way.
The MERLIN partners have identified the following areas where a progression of the state-of-the art is needed to take advantage of Additive Manufacturing:
- Productivity increase;
- Design or Topology optimisation;
- Powder recycling validation;
- In-process NDT development;
- In-process geometrical validation;
- High specification materials process development.
The MERLIN consortium comprises world leading aero engine manufacturers, Rolls-Royce is the coordinator, renowned RTD providers and intelligent SME's. Impacts will include the development of high value, disruptive Additive Manufacturing technologies capable of step changes in performance which will safeguard EU companies in the high value aero engine manufacturing field. Additive Manufacturing will significantly reduce waste in an industry where materials require massive amounts of energy and toxic chemicals. In-process toxic chemical usage will be massively reduced, and emissions will drop because of the reduced amount of material involved.
Decreasing environmental costs of aircraft manufacture
Making an aircraft component in layers from the bottom up could help reduce material waste and energy consumption while leading to improved parts. Scientists are developing the required technology.
Aircraft manufacturers are pressed to reduce the environmental impact of air transport while enhancing performance and decreasing costs. A revolutionary manufacturing technique first introduced in the 1980s may provide the key. Additive manufacturing (AM) is a technique that employs lasers to melt small amounts of materials in a precise manner with limited heat input. Parts are produced by additive layering, essentially building up the part rather than forming it out of a large piece of material. Laser cladding can then be applied in a single layer to enhance surface properties.
AM offers the potential for a drastic reduction in material waste, exploitation of novel lightweight components, and elimination of machining tools and related toxic chemicals. Aside from lower energy consumption during the production process, light weight aircraft burn less fuel and so create fewer emissions while in service. The EU-funded project 'Development of aero engine component manufacture using laser additive manufacturing' (Merlin) is exploiting selective laser melting (SLM) and laser metal deposition (LMD) technologies. The goal is high-performance aerospace parts produced in a more productive, reliable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way.
Scientists discovered early on that evaluating productivity and mechanical testing definitions required international AM standards currently lacking. As a result, Merlin is working closely with the ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies, providing input to future dissemination activity. Scientists delivered the non-destructive testing (NDT) specifications for LMD NDT including hardware requirements of the in-line LUT system. Investigations into a number of other areas have begun including increasing productivity and optimising design for light weight and better performance. Scientists are also developing monitoring and control techniques for in-process geometrical validation given that no machine tools are involved.
Merlin expects to facilitate near-zero material waste and significant reduction in toxic chemical use by exploiting AM. Together with the ability to deliver light-weight, high-performance parts, the technology should have significant positive impact on the environment and on the competitiveness of the aerospace industry.