A laser-assisted machining process to reduce the time and cost to produce engine components is to be developed by technical specialists.
The laser project undertaken by Aurora Flight Sciences will test lightweight silicon carbide ceramic matrix composites (CMC) with funding from the West Virginia High Technology Consortium and NASA.
CMCs are used for high-temperature applications in rocket and turbine engines, replacing nickel, chromium and titanium alloys and reducing weight by as much as 50%.
Aurora says the programme will develop a technology to significantly reduce the time required for final machining of CMC parts.
The component surface will be heated to around 540ºC (1,000ºF) with a laser to soften the brittle CMC just before the removal of material with an advanced cutting tool, says the company.
The process will also allow the fabrication of complex-geometric parts that cannot be produced using current processes such as grinding, says Aurora, which will perform the work at its plant in West Virginia.
Under the programme, assisted by Kansas State University and engine manufacturer GE Aviation, Aurora will manufacture and test CMC components representative of rocket and turbine engine structures, testing them to determine the effect of laser-assisted machining.