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The University of Southampton

Research project: Rolls Royce SAMULET

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SAMULET (Strategic Affordable Manufacturing in the UK through Leading Environmental Technologies) is a Rolls-Royce-led collaborative programme to accelerate the development of manufacturing and product technologies. It focuses on productivity and environmental improvements, including efficient advanced manufacturing processes and lower engine fuel consumption. Research focuses on improved turbomachinery, combustion and transmission systems and a broad range of existing and novel manufacturing processes.

The location of a disc in an aircraft engine (in this case an IP turbine disc)
The location of a disc

As part of this project Southampton University developed research specifically in the area of turbine discs. Discs are sophisticated, safety critical but highly expensive parts whose cost effectiveness needed to be improved. There are typically 10-30 discs in an aircraft engine and their job is to hold the fan, compressor and turbine blades in place.

A typical disc, which can be a metre or so in diameter is made from very sophisticated heat resistant special alloys is shown right.

Because this is a safety critical component it has to go through a very stringent inspection process to guarantee that there are no cracks in the forging which may then cause component failure in service.

The ultrasonic inspection process is illustrated below and is essentially the same technology used to provide images of unborn babies.

Jay Meas, a Southampton PhD student developed a sophisticated piece of software to reduce the cost of raw materials and improve the detection capability of the process. This work is currently being patented by Rolls-Royce and Jay has now joined RR as a disc designer.

The work Jay undertook was simulate the physics of ultrasonic waves in the forging using a technique known as "ray-tracing"

A typical aircraft engine disc and the forging process needed to manufacture it
A typical aircraft engine disc
Ultrasonic inspection of disc forgings to detect cracks
Ultrasonic inspection of disc
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