GE Global Research announced on April 20 that they have developed the "Superman" of machining technologies which they named Blue Arc. Blue Arc can cut through tough engineering alloys used in aircraft engines and power generation turbines in just a fraction of time it takes using conventional milling processes, the company said.
"GE's Blue Arc technology has given our manufacturing processes new found superpowers," said Andy Trimmer, a chemical engineer in the Process Systems Lab at GE Global Research. "This has been especially useful in aviation, where we've been able to reduce the machining of aircraft engine blisks from days to just hours."
Trimmer added, "In addition to saving time, the technology saves electricity as it requires lower force to achieve high material removal rates compared to conventional machining. Since the equipment does not need to be as heavy duty for withstanding the machining forces, the motors used to drive the axes are smaller and use less energy. Being able to save on time and tooling costs is one thing. But when you also can reduce plant energy usage, this achieves the trifecta of best-in-class manufacturing."
Currently the technology is being used by GE's aviation business for the manufacture of blisks used in its aircraft engines for commercial applications. Blisks, which are specially designed rotating parts with dozens of blades on the edge, form part of the engine's compressor section.
GE is exploring licensing opportunities with machine builders and OEM end users. BlueArc is a thermal cutting process that is classified as a roughing process. The thermal artifacts are removed using conventional machining. The main benefits from BlueArc are reductions in machining cycle time; lower tooling costs and the enabling of lean manufacturing concepts.
The company's Global Research is investing in a diverse array of more than 100 manufacturing and inspection technology programs and inventing new ways to make products. In October 2009, GE opened the Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center in Michigan that is dedicated to accelerating the development of next generation manufacturing technologies for GE's industrial products.
To view of video of the process click here.