Airfoil and Turbine Blade Machining

Airfoil machining demands more than mere precision. It's just as imperative to keep the process strictly controlled as it is to deliver a viable product. Hi-Tek Manufacturing offers a high-quality production strategy that makes it possible to design, refine, and execute turbine blades and airfoils that withstand the most stringent operating conditions.

Hi-Tek makes it simple to create components that go the distance. Our airfoil machining solutions power a diverse range of aviation, aerospace, and energy applications where product quality is an absolute necessity.

Airfoil Machining Methods and Capabilities

Airfoils vary widely depending on their intended application. Even more complicated, a single turbine device may call for various foil profiles and implementations. From variable heat dissipation requirements to diverse weight restrictions and airflow demands, blades and vanes come in countless flavors.

While machining automation and other modern planning strategies can take some of the complexity out of these jobs, there's no substitute for quality engineering expertise. Without the practical knowledge to quantify case-specific turbine design problems, it's impossible to identify and apply the correct solutions.

The Hi-Tek team combines decades of engineering knowledge with the kind of first-hand understanding that can only be gained through real-world problem-solving. This approach enables us to successfully leverage a number of manufacturing techniques and ensure our products are fit for the jobs they need to perform.

Our comprehensive approach to fabrication also ensures that we maintain strict quality controls and compliance governance. Because we possess the experiential knowledge, intelligence, and tools to complete everything in-house, we deliver products that our clients can count on above all else.

Root Form Grinding

Reductive manufacturing is the industry standard for high-demand turbine components for a good reason. These devices need the hardness to resist abrasion as well as the ductility to remain true to form after hundreds of thousands of heat cycles. Hi-Tek's precision grinding processes make it possible to create complex shapes using advanced materials. What's more, they do so without introducing weaknesses that might arise with other fabrication techniques.

To achieve a higher quality output than our competitors can offer, we employ a variety of distinct grinding techniques with their own unique strengths. Our cubic boron nitride, or CBN, grinding tools are ideal for the rapid reduction of large volumes of hardened steel and similar materials. This method also reduces the risk of overheating and avoids undue amounts of tooling pressure that might lead to deformations.

Because they're extremely small parts, blades and airfoils are sensitive to relatively minute motions. Movements that might not impact output quality in other forms of industrial manufacturing can be killers in this domain. To solve this problem, we've pioneered the use of innovative creep-feed grinding techniques. 

By operating at limited feed rates, we eliminate the hazards of imprecise reciprocating motion. Using this option also enables us to fabricate parts as small as 5.08 mm in any dimension.

Cooling Hole Drilling

Airfoils are ubiquitous elements in the aerospace, aviation, and turbine industries, where they create usable aerodynamic forces. This force can be used to perform work and produce the torque needed to spin a turbine. The turbine technology can then be applied to either jet propulsion or drive shaft power for electrical generators and alternators. It can create lift and drag based on its overall shape and size, thus influencing the airflow across its surfaces.

Introducing fuel to produce a jet stream of gases around an airfoil and deliver motive force results in high temperatures that push today's superalloys to the limits of their durability. Elaborate cooling schemes throughout blades and vanes are required to maintain these parts' performance and geometric integrity.

Airfoil cooling schemes require rather small holes that conventional metal removal techniques, such as twist drilling, simply can't realize. Considering the hardness of the superalloy materials, shaft width-to-depth ratios, and cavity shapes required for sustained operation at extreme temperatures, other mechanical techniques may also prove unfeasible. Alternatives like Hi-Tek's EDM, Fast Hole EDM, and YAG laser drilling demonstrate undeniable advantages.

EDM and Fast-hole EDM

Electrical discharge machining, or EDM, is a reductive process that eliminates the need for a traditional tool head — and all of the problems that come with it. By using an electrical spark to remove material from hard, conductive metals, EDM makes it possible to create small cavities, holes, and sophisticated negative-space forms.

Our Fast Hole EDM devices are built to the specifications we've devised through decades of operation. By constructing our tooling from the ground up to meet our stringent requirements, we're able to solve problems that defy other commercially available options. 

The Hi-Tek process cuts cooling holes into materials one at a time, and it permits the creation of rounded or irregularly shaped cavities as per customer requirements. Since fast-hole EDM has such a small, focused area, it's excellent for performing highly detailed work in these durable parts.

Our primary focus with the equipment we produce is guaranteeing that everything is done accurately and efficiently the first time through. Re‐cast and metallurgical disruptions get in the way of meeting project deadlines and other requirements. We work tirelessly to minimize these issues so that our customers can remain on‐track during complex projects.

We can form holes as small as 0.25 mm or as large as 6.5 mm in diverse conductive materials, including stainless steel, Hastelloy, Inconel, and Waspaloy. Since these substrates are commonly used throughout the aerospace and gas turbine industries, Hi-Tek EDM has proven itself particularly useful in high-demand applications. As new superalloys come onto the marketplace, we'll work to incorporate them into our processes to maintain pace with the latest customer requirements.

Another significant advantage of our EDM sinker machinery lies in its use of a multi-axis carriage. This capable setup makes it possible to drill holes precisely regardless of their axial orientations or the surface curvatures of the blades they're embedded in. Such alignment accuracy is of critical importance in a field where minor gas flow inefficiencies might lead to advanced wear or the development of potentially catastrophic hot spots.

YAG Laser

Hi-Tek has been operating advanced YAG lasers for almost four decades. Our laser beam machining techniques empower us to work with a range of composite materials that might not meet the conductivity demands of processes like EDM. It also allows our team to keep production moving at high speeds and tightly control process parameters.

By fine-tuning factors such as pulse duration, beam radius, and laser power, we're able to realize small-diameter holes while minimizing heat deformation and process-induced material fatigue. Our laser techniques also give us the ability to perform accurate cooling-hole forming following finishing processes such as coating application. In other words, our customers don't have to seek multiple manufacturers to get the job done.

Complete Finishing and Inspection

As every experienced engineer knows, it's one thing to build a design to spec, but it's another to create something that works as advertised. We take the uncertainty out of the process by conducting comprehensive quality examinations of every airfoil or turbine blade that comes off of our production line.

CNC Optical Examinations

Computer-controlled machinery isn't just for taking the hard manual labor out of the machining process. We employ it to great success by using our CNC hardware to conduct detailed visual inspections.

Machine-aided optical inspections allow us to catch issues that human eyes might miss. It also empowers improved governance through uniform assessments. By tying our quality systems to our production line feedback sensors and oversight tools, we're also able to help our clients refine their designs and spot potential problems long before they occur.

Airflow Testing

Airflow testing is key to any successful turbine. In addition to confirming that the devices we fabricate function as intended and don't include defects, our wind-tunnel tests make it simpler to improve part performance. Hi-Tek clients don't have to deal with surprises in the field because we keep them informed on what to expect.

Additional Inspection Methods

We also conduct a variety of other automated testing methods to confirm the quality of our airfoils. Radiographic, or X-ray, testing and fluorescent penetrant inspections reveal hidden structural defects that might compromise critical applications. Coordinate measuring machine, or CMM, hard gaging confirms that each part satisfies the exacting dimensional tolerances that our clients demand.

Finishing

We believe in performing tasks to completion, and airfoil manufacturing is no exception. Our vapor degreasing ensures that part surfaces are primed for further finishing steps, such as coating applications. Our close-tolerance deburring process eliminates irregularities that might otherwise prompt catastrophic failures or other dangerous conditions. Hi-Tek part marking is designed to last, and it plays a vital role in quality control, component tracking, and processes such as distributed assembly and in-field part upgrades.

Consistent Results Users Can Rely On

The Hi-Tek turbine blade manufacturing process may seem complex, but it's worth it. Our products enable safer operation of aircraft, efficient generation of consumer-ready energy, and increased product lifecycle value. After all, when you can count on a part to perform exactly to specifications, it's far easier to improve and build on its strengths.

Ready to learn more about why Hi-Tek has been the turbine blade machining partner of choice for hundreds of successful enterprises since 1980? Reach out with your questions today.

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