DRDO develops near isothermal forging technology for manufacturing aeroengines’ parts

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed the near isothermal forging technology used in manufacturing parts for aeroengines, the defence ministry said on Friday. This technology is used to produce all the five stages of high press compressor (HPC) discs out of titanium alloy using an isothermal forge press weighing 2,000 tonnes, it mentioned.

In any aeroengine, the HPC discs have to be replaced after a specified number of operations or in case of damage, it added.

“With this development, Indiahas joined the league of limited global engine developers to have the manufacturing capabilities of such critical aero engine components,” the ministry’s statement noted.

A fighter jet engine functions by sucking in a large volume of air, compressing it rapidly in several stages, injecting aviation fuel into the air and then setting it alight to create a high-pressure, high-temperature gaseous mix. That is expelled backward through the exhaust, its reaction propelling the aircraft forward.

To achieve this, jet engines have seven modules, which from front to rear are: the input fan, low pressure and high pressure compressors, the combustion chamber, high pressure and low pressure turbines and the exhaust.

An aero-engine requires finely tuned design and manufacture. For over three decades the DRDO’s Gas Turbine and Research Establishment (GTRE) has spearheaded a multi-laboratory effort to design the so-called Kaveri engine, but with only limited success.

“The (Kaveri) project was sanctioned in March 1989 at an estimated cost of Rs 382.81 crore and Probable Date of Completion (PDC) of December 1996. The PDC was extended to December 2009 and cost was revised and enhanced to Rs 2,839 crore,” Defence Minister AK Antony told Parliament on December 10, 2012.

Even so, the Kaveri’s has achieved a thrust of just about 65 Kilo Newtons (KN), well short of the 95 KN that its premier rivals, the Eurojet EJ200 and the General Electric GE-F414 develop. The DRDO is now exploring the possibility of using the Kaveri as a marine propulsion turbine for warships.DMRL, which developed the technology to produce the five-stage HPC discs, is a laboratory without the facilities for bulk production.

To manufacture the discs in the volumes required, DMRL has transferred technology to defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) MIDHANI through a licensing agreement for technology transfer (LAToT).“Using the isothermal forge press facility available at DMRL, Hyderabad, DMRL & MIDHANI have jointly produced 200 HPC disc forgings pertaining to various compressor stages. These have been supplied to HAL’s Engine Division in Bengaluru for fitting into the Adour 804/811 and 871 engines that power the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Jaguar/Hawk Aircrafts.

The Adour engine is overhauled by HAL, Bengaluru under a licensed manufacturing agreement with Rolls-Royce, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). With the HPC Drum assembly required to be replaced at regular intervals, their annual requirements is large, warranting indigenisation for larger export earnings.The HPC Discs produced by HAL have met all the requirements stipulated by airworthiness agencies.

Accordingly, the technology has been type certified and a letter of technical approval (LoTA) accorded.

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  • Founder of IADN. He has more than 10 years of experience in research and analysis. An award winning researcher, he writes for the leading defence and security journals, think-tanks and in-service publications. He is a senior consultant at the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Shimla. Contact him at: [email protected]

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