Assessing the potential benefits of manufacturing gas turbine components by utilizing hydroforming technology

Bell, Colin and Corney, Jonathan and Storr, John; (2015) Assessing the potential benefits of manufacturing gas turbine components by utilizing hydroforming technology. In: 13th International Cold Forming Congress. University of Strathclyde Publishing, GBR, pp. 46-53. ISBN 978-1-909522-12-1

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Hydroforming, which utilizes hydraulic pressure to manufacture metallic components, is a near net shape forming process that could offer many potential advantages in terms of cost, mechanical properties, weight reduction and manufacturing time over traditional production methods. Through the use of two case studies with components similar to ones used in gas turbine engines, this paper presents different ways in which hydroforming technology could be exploited to reduce both the part count and operations required to manufacture certain aerospace structures by using methods which have already shown to be effective in other industries. It is shown that cost, manufacturing operations and manufacturing complexity can be reduced while maintaining the function of a component by switching the manufacturing process from a conventional method to one that includes hydroforming. These parts illustrate a method for assessing hydroforming manufacturability from reported theory and heuristics in the available literature. The results provide an example which engineers can use as a case study for how to start assessing how easily a given component can be adapted to the hydroforming process and how the benefits can be assessed. The reason for these results is that hydroforming offers a greater level of material formability compared to other forming processes and as individual components become geometrically more complicated the overall part count can be reduced as it takes fewer components to make an assembly, which in turn reduces weight as fewer nuts, bolts, seals and welding flanges are needed. The automotive industry has already demonstrated that this approach can deliver tangible benefits and hydroformed components are already used in larger airframe structures, but the hope is that the same approach can facilitate similar weight and cost savings in gas turbine engine components.