Pratt Pursues MRO Automation

Engine companies’ position at the forefront of technological change in the MRO sector has been highlighted by Pratt & Whitney’s latest revelations about its aftermarket operations in Asia.

In Singapore its blade and vane repair specialist, Turbine Overhaul Services (TOS), has developed a fully automated ultrasonic measurement system for robotic inspection of airfoil wall thicknesses.

TOS has also augmented its laser cladding systems – used to repair titanium turbine blades through a variant of additive manufacturing – with fiber optics. These can adjust to incoming repair blades variation to enable predictable and dimensionally consistent build-up that requires no welding.

It has also integrated an AI-based inspection technology that has reduced turnaround time for visual inspections.

At its Component Aerospace Singapore facility, meanwhile, it is pursuing other additive solutions for PW40000 components, as well as an automated fixture system that uses 12-armed robots to replace manual fixtures. The facility provides engine part repair for combustion chambers, fuel nozzle injectors and guides, tubes, ducts and manifolds.

Also in Singapore, Pratt & Whitney Component Solutions, a part repair specialist for compressor stators and seals, variable vanes and shrouds, is adopting a fully automated robotic loading process that uses a collaborative robot (COBOT), enabling full-time operations without human supervision.

Lufthansa Technik is also developing a COBOT intended to independently check the fill level of large batteries and, if necessary, remove vents and seals to refill distilled water in the battery cells, while Airbus has trialled an autonomous mobile robot to deliver tooling and components around its wing-making facility in Broughton, UK.

“Robotisation brings improved efficiencies, quality, and lead times in production, as well as improved ergonomics for the workforce, especially for tasks that have to be carried out in small, uncomfortable places, involving lots of repetitive actions,” said Patrick Vigie, Airbus’s head of manufacturing technologies, in an interview with Inside MRO last year.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.