ICTM Conference 2019: "Digitalization and sustainability are boosting turbomachinery manufacture"
Over 200 experts from 18 countries converged in Aachen 6-7 February for the fifth conference of the ICTM International Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing Aachen. Speakers from some of the leading companies in the sector reported on current developments and future-oriented technologies for the manufacture and uses of turbomachines and their components in aerospace and power generation.
"Digitalization is helping to make turbomachinery manufacturing more sustainable and to conserve resources" – was one of the main conclusions of the fifth ICTM Conference. Increased efficiency coupled with lower CO2-emissions and levels and responsible use of resources are the aims at the top of the agenda of turbomachinery manufacturers.
Leading companies from the turbomachinery manufacturing sector and scientists discussed trends in that sector.
In a series of seven different sessions, experts from some of the major turbomachinery manufacturers such as Siemens AG, Rolls-Royce Deutschland Ltd. & Co. KG, MTU Aero Engines AG, MAN Energy Solutions SE or Pratt & Whitney joined those from measuring technology companies including Carl Zeiss Industrielle Messtechnik GmbH and the IT suppliers ModuleWorks GmbH to shed light on the sector-specific aspects of digitalization and process monitoring, additive manufacturing, high-performance machining and materials engineering, each from the perspective of their own business.
Machine manufacturers and technology suppliers reported on the importance of adopting digital approaches in processes to machine high-strength materials which are difficult to machine such as some of the new metallic alloys or Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC) in order to ensure that even the smallest of tolerances are observed for the expensive components. Discussions revolving around process digitalization strategies, process control based on the digital twin and approaches for linking plant and machinery did not stop when presentations ended but were continued through breaks and during the networking event in the Coronation Hall within Aachen City Hall.
Ways of simulating the development of new, special-purpose component materials was an additional hot topic in the turbomachinery community: The ability to simulate material characteristics with higher precision than ever before, permits more accurate predictions to be made as to their behavior both during the manufacturing process and when they are subsequently deployed. Consequently, the production process itself can be planned in greater detail and more efficiently.
A number of speakers touched on the subject of sustainability: Michael Kleinhenz from MAN Energy Solutions SE touched on decarbonization as an important driving force for new business models in turbomachinery manufacturing. "Any evaluation of resource efficiency over the entire life cycle of a product such as energy conversion machinery such as turbomachines, must highlight aspects in addition to the ubiquitous energy and CO2 balance. One of the focuses of our work is obviously to bring increased transparency regarding the use of scarce raw materials such as cobalt and rare earth elements or of substances which may be harmful to human health or to the environment. Digitalization offers us the chance not only to ensure environmental awareness at the planning stage for future products but also to plan a consistent 'green production life cycle'", declared Dr. Sascha Gierlings, Head of Prototype Manufacturing and Turbomachinery Business Unit development at the Fraunhofer IPT.
Intensifying dialog and applying innovations in industrial practice
In addition to the program of presentations in the Eurogress Aachen, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser technology ILT, who were hosting the conference, also opened their machine shops and laboratories to visitors at the end of the first day of the conference: Visitors to the conference took the opportunity to acquire further information about emerging technological trends and explore the outlying fields of production research in turbomachine manufacturing both in live demonstrations and individual presentations at a total of 40 stations used by the two institutes as well an in the adjoining Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL at RWTH Aachen University.
"We are delighted to note that once again, we have been able to inject new impulses into the dialog between manufacturers, suppliers and research institute. The intensive exchange of ideas during the ICTM Conference is contributing to the accelerated development of innovations and to their transfer from research into industrial application", was the conclusion drawn by Professor Thomas Bergs, Member of the Board of Directors of the Fraunhofer IPT and Chair of Manufacturing Technology at the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL at RWTH Aachen University at the end of the two-day conference.
Plans are already underway for the next ICTM Conference, scheduled to take place in Aachen two years from now, from February 24-25, 2021, again with the aim of being a driving force in the lively dialog taking place in the turbomachinery sector.