Whenever Alexander Steurer wants to see how the youngest offshoot of the MTU technology family is doing, he doesn’t have far to go: out the office, down the center aisle of the nearest manufacturing hall, a right turn into the corridor, up four steps. And there it is—right in front of him is the MCM Clock 1800, the new machine for an equally new technology: ceramic milling. In this kind of milling, the cutters are made of ceramic, not carbide.
At MTU Aero Engines, Steurer heads NC programming for frame construction—that is, creating software to run the manufacturing machinery. He indicates the bright orange dot between the milling head and the GE9X turbine center frame (TCF). “Almost 1,200° Celsius,” he says. “That’s pretty damn hot.”
In conventional production methods, this is precisely what engineers are doing their best to avoid, but in ceramic milling, it’s the whole point. Inconel 718, a nickel-chrome superalloy, has to be heated to a high temperature for it to change from a superhard material into one that is soft and malleable. “Then the milling head can literally tear the material out.”