Exciting times for manufacturers
PCC Struturals from Portland/Oregon is one of MTU’s most important partners for investment castings. Shortly before leaving for the 2017 Paris Air Show, Jim Criswell, PCC Structurals Vice President, Strategic Sales, gave an outlook.
06.2017 | Text: Eleonore Fähling
Eleonore Fähling has been on the AEROREPORT editorial team since 2014 and in charge of the MTU employee magazine since 1999. As an aerospace journalist, she specializes in aviation history and market topics.
Mr. Criswell, PCC Structurals generates around 70 percent of its sales in the aerospace sector. What industry trends do you expect to see in Paris?
Jim Criswell: We’ve heard a great deal about the new generation of advanced turbofan engines, specifically the LEAP and PurePower series, and the new fuel efficient aircraft that they power. We’re now starting to see a lot of this new technology come to fruition, not as demos or prototypes, but as fully-certified production models. We’re thrilled to play a part in the development of the new processes that many of these new programs require. In addition, companies like Mitsubishi and Embraer will likely exhibit aircraft that they’ve had under development for quite some time, such as the MRJ-90, the KC-390, and, hopefully, an E-Jet. It’s an exciting time to be a manufacturer in the industry.
PCC Structurals and MTU work together nowadays mostly on wide-body engines like the GE9X. The parts that you cast for MTU are really huge already. For future generations of very high bypass engines, even larger parts may be needed. Is there a technical limit and how do you overcome that?
Criswell: Our company makes the largest investment castings in the world in titanium, steel and superalloy. With the equipment we use today, the horizon for these parts is currently at 213 cm (84 in). As you said, though, future engines for wide-body applications may require larger and larger components with the properties and weight-savings that investment castings provide. In anticipation of these requirements, our Materials and Technology team works with customer development teams to determine when to introduce new equipment and updated processes that will accommodate future parts.
PCC Strucuturals‘ headquarters in Oregon/USA.
Precision Castparts Corporation or PCC was founded in 1956 in Portland/Oregon and has since grown to a company group of approximately 160 manufacturing locations worldwide with some 30,000 employees generating an annual revenue of approximately 10 billion US-dollars (2015). The founding division of PCC, PCC Structurals, says it offers “the widest casting breadth in the market, considering the ranges of alloys, size and complexity”. A leading supplier of structural investment castings worldwide, it specializes in nickel-based superalloy, titanium, stainless steel and aluminum castings. The company works for the aerospace and for the power generation industries, casting cases, frames, housings, ducts and hubs, among others. MTU and PCC Structurals have been working together on turbine center frame parts for the GEnx, GP7000 and GE9X.
How and why will materials and production skills be key innovation factors in aero engine technology?
Criswell: These skills have been critical since the advent of our industry. It’s never enough to simply possess academic and experiential wherewithal when it comes to aerospace since we are constantly charged with doing better in all aspects of the business. Success in aerospace requires an inventive and innovative way of thinking with regard to design, acquisition and production. Material development and selection is a key component to this, especially when it comes to metallurgical processes. We regularly team with our fellow PCC divisions TIMET and Special Metals to ensure that we’re working with the best material possible to meet the customer’s needs.
Will additive manufacturing change the game for casting? How do you respond?
Criswell: Additive manufacturing offers advantages for certain applications in casting. Although there are still limitations to what the technology can bring to aerospace manufacturing, we believe that over time the process will become increasingly relevant to our industry. In fact, over the past year, PCC Structurals acquired Atlantic Precision, Inc. (API), a well-known DMLS 3D-Printing facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Having API in the PCC family means that we can compare processes for parts that customers have in development and look for opportunities to enhance our own production process for cast parts.