Titanium alloys for MTU
For decades, the Otto Fuchs Group has been working closely with MTU to supply the engine manufacturer with high-quality forged parts, particularly pieces made from complicated titanium alloys. Interview with Dr. Klaus Welschof, Head of Aerospace Sales, conducted at Paris Air Show 2017.
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.
Dr. Welschof, you consider the Paris Air Show a success for you as Head of Sales for the Otto Fuchs Group when …?
… we get the opportunity to talk with our key customers about future strategy. We incorporate the customers’ latest thoughts and considerations into our strategy, and we update them on developments in our company: this year, the operational merger of the German parent company Otto Fuchs with the U.S. subsidiary Weber Metals Inc. to form the Otto Fuchs Aerospace Group has been the main topic of conversation. On top of that, we are currently assembling the largest forging press of the last 50 years. The new state-of-the-art 60,000 ton press is being constructed in the U.S. by the Otto Fuchs Group.
Otto Fuchs works with MTU on compressor disks made of titanium. What makes these disks special? And what particular qualities does your company bring to the table?
Personally, I have witnessed almost three decades of cooperation between MTU and Otto Fuchs—and the word “innovation” has always taken center-stage. Together with MTU, we were able to bring several completely new high-performance titanium alloys for compressor disks to production readiness. Otto Fuchs is world-renowned for its materials and process know-how. Otto Fuchs was the first supplier to receive a second MTU Award, in this case for “Innovation,” which made us delighted and proud. The focus of our innovation continues to be on material- and cost-saving forging processes and testing technologies as well as big data and additive manufacturing. Otto Fuchs and MTU make annual objective agreements, which also cover research and development.
Dr.-Ing. Klaus Welschof (57) has been Head of Aerospace Sales at the Otto Fuchs Group in Meinerzhagen since late 2007. He has also been a member of the “Aerospace Group” Executive Management Team, the aerospace division management for Otto Fuchs, Meinerzhagen, and Weber Metals, Inc., Paramount, California, USA, since the start of 2016. In 1988, he joined Otto Fuchs KG as an employee working in development and customer technical advice. Later, he took on various roles at the interface between development, sales and project management. Previously, he had studied and acquired a doctorate in aerospace technology at RWTH Aachen University.
Meinerzhagen—Aerial photo from 2014.
Otto Fuchs Group
Otto Fuchs KG was founded in 1910. With 8,738 employees worldwide and an annual turnover of 2.4 billion euros (based on 2015 figures), the company manufactures high-quality semi-finished products, in particular metallurgically complicated forgings for the aerospace industry, the automobile industry (the Fuchsfelge), the construction industry (Schüco windows) and the machinery and plant engineering industry. The Otto Fuchs Group has subsidiaries in Germany, Hungary, South Africa, the USA and China.
New materials and manufacturing techniques will permit the next technological leap forward in engine manufacturing, it is often claimed. Is that how you see it?
Yes, very much so. The further gains in the energy and environmental efficiency of modern aircraft engines come from improvements in aerodynamic and thermal efficiency. One approach seeks to make the fan turn slower and the low-pressure turbine turn faster, whereas the other approach seeks to increase operating pressures and temperatures. In both cases, you need improved materials and smart processing as a key technology; generally, that means new forging processes or additive manufacturing. We’re working on both these things. And even if Otto Fuchs used to be synonymous with titanium at MTU, you have now been procuring nickel materials for compressors and turbine components from us for the past 15 years. What’s more, we’ve just agreed a new project with MTU, which will further improve the turbines of the future.
With its famous “Fuchsfelge,” Otto Fuchs is a strong presence in automotive manufacturing. Are there parallels between the industries? Which of them tends to learn more from the other?
In both sectors, we want the name Otto Fuchs to be associated with innovation and quality. With the Fuchsfelge®, our automotive division possesses a widely recognizable high-tech product which end consumers immediately identify with Otto Fuchs. In the aerospace division, the same thing applies at expert level. [Dr. Welschof chuckles.] Your second question about titanium disks indicates that Otto Fuchs enjoys a good reputation in this area.
At our Meinerzhagen site, the fact that the Automotive and Aerospace divisions are right next to each other means that everybody knows what everyone else excels at. Here are some concrete examples of how the divisions benefit from each other: By exploiting aviation materials, Otto Fuchs Automotive has become the worldwide market leader in the automobile turbocharger sector. And by utilizing the company’s extensive experience with automation chains for manufacturing annual volumes running to five figures in the Automotive division, the Aerospace division has become quality and cost leader for forged products in aircraft structures and engines. Otto Fuchs Aerospace was able to introduce vertical integration for aviation products without major difficulties—in contrast to other forging suppliers, we had long possessed the requisite know-how in house.
Aerospace and Automotive each account for around 40 percent of metalworking activities at Otto Fuchs, which makes for healthy competition for the top spot. [Dr. Welschof laughs.] The same parallel also runs through the joint responsibility for sustainable employment by means of innovation at the Otto Fuchs sites in four continents.