Final assembly of the PW1100G-JM engine for the A320neo

Germany - Munich


Kopf intern.kopf

It’s 5.15 a.m. in Munich. A group of employees is just starting the early shift at the MTU location, among them Elmar Stichlmair, who heads up PW1100G-JM indus­tri­alization. His desti­nation is the final assembly line where since 2016 the PW1100G-JM pro­duc­tion engine for the A320 neo has been as­sem­bled. For MTU, this presents quite a chal­lenge, since it is the first time MTU has been respon­sible for the complete as­sem­bly of a commercial engine. MTU was awarded the contract to as­sem­ble 30 per­cent of all PW1100G-JM engines by co­opera­tion partner and OEM Pratt & Whitney back in 2011—as one of only three sites worldwide.

Engine components for the PW1000G family are produced using advanced manufacturing technologies: here a view of the blisk production facility.

Background Information Geared Turbofan™

Five renowned aircraft manufacturers have opted for the Geared Turbo­fan™ engine to power their air­craft: Airbus for the A320neo, Bom­bar­dier for the C Series, Mitsubishi for the MRJ regional jet, Embraer for the second gen­era­tion of E-Jets and Irkut for the MC-21. MTU’s work­share in the engines of the PW1000G family is between 15 and 18 percent.

In addition to being responsible for the high-speed, low-pressure turbine and the first four stages of the high-pressure compressor, MTU also manufactures brush seals and nickel blisks for components of the high-pres­sure com­pres­sor that do not lie within MTU’s design respon­sibility. MTU is also respon­sible for the final as­sem­bly of 30 per­cent of the PW1100G-JM pro­duction engines powering the A320neo.

Innovative manufacturing technology

Since then a lot has happened. The final assembly line had to be com­plete­ly recon­figured, with the proviso that it should take up as little floor space as possible and, most importantly, offer a high degree of flexibility. Engines are normally as­sem­bled using cranes that run on rails sus­pended from the ceiling. “We had the idea to organize the as­sem­bly proc­ess using a floor-based system,” Stichlmair explains. The result is a bespoke system featuring sophis­ticated and unique manu­facturing tech­nology. It comprises up to 16 carts which, coupled together depending on the stage of as­sem­bly, move for­ward along the line in a similar way to a con­veyor belt. The key to the whole pro­cess is the care­fully timed “fishbone” layout. “In total, there are eight main as­sem­bly steps, with pre-as­sem­bled compo­nents and modules dove­tailing in from the sides,” says Stichlmair, explaining the system’s effi­ciency. The se­quences on the final as­sem­bly line are choreo­graphed down to the last detail. Flow­charts sys­tema­tize the use of lubri­cants, for ex­ample, or with which tool and torque the engineer should tighten a screw.

Steep ramp-up

This detailed planning has paid off: in May 2016, the first engine on which the pro­cesses were to be tested arrived in Munich from the United States. The system worked without a hitch from the very beginning. Also at the first go, auditors from the Federal Aviation Admini­stration (FAA), the U.S. avi­ation authority, gave the new as­sem­bly concept the go-ahead in early August 2016. In late August, MTU delivered the first as­sem­bled production engine to Airbus. Since then, the company has been experi­encing a steep ramp-up: from 2019, MTU plans to supply up to 240 engines a year to Airbus in Toulouse or Hamburg.