DRDO develops efficient Single Crystal Blades for Helicopter Engines

Clever casting techniques produce jet engines that can withstand 2,000-degree temperatures, allowing unprecedented efficiency.

DRDO has now developed single crystal blades technology and has supplied 60 number of these blades to HAL as part of their indigenous helicopter development program for helicopter engine application. Very few countries in the world such as USA, UK, France, Russia, have the capability to design and manufacture such Single Crystal (SX) components.

This is part of a program taken up by Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) a premium laboratory of DRDO to develop 5 sets (300 Numbers) of single crystal high pressure turbine (HPT) blades using a nickel-based super alloy. The supply of remaining 4 sets will be completed in due course.

Helicopters used in strategic and defence applications need compact and powerful aero-engines for their reliable operation at extreme conditions.

To achieve this, state-of-the-art Single Crystal Blades having complex shape and geometry, manufactured out of Nickel based superalloys capable of withstanding high temperatures of operation are used. DMRL undertook this task based on its expertise gained during the development of such a technology for a aero-engine project earlier.

DMRL developed vacuum investment casting process to produce state‐of‐the‐art Directionally Solidified (DS) and Single Crystal (SX) blades and vanes for aero gas turbine engines.

Applications

Components for gas turbine engines of aircraft for high efficiency, high thrust and low specific fuel consumption.

Salient Features

  • Directionally solidified turbine blades and vanes are columnar grained hollow castings with thin walled aerofoils between two shrouds
  • Single crystal turbine blades and vanes are produced by using orthogonal grain selector from advanced Ni‐base super alloys
  • Ceramic silica cores are used to get hollow cast components
  • Intricate cooling channels are possible
  • DS and SX components can operate at higher temperatures and enhance engine efficiency and service life.

Complete vacuum investment casting process to realize the blades, including die design, wax pattering, ceramic moulding, actual casting of components non-destructive evaluation (NDE), heat treatment and dimensional measurement, has been established at DMRL.

Special ceramic composition had to be formulated for making strong ceramic moulds which can withstand metallostatic pressure of liquid CMSX-4 alloy at 1500°C and above during casting operation. The challenge of maintaining the required temperature gradient has also been overcome by optimizing the casting parameters. A multi-step vacuum solutionising heat treatment schedule for complex CMSX-4 superalloy to achieve the required microstructure and mechanical properties has also been established. Further, a stringent non-destructive evaluation (NDE) methodology for the blades along with the technique for determining their crystallographic orientations has been developed.

Hon’ble Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh congratulated DRDO, HAL and industry involved in the development of critical technology. Secretary DD R&D and chairman DRDO, Dr G Satheesh Reddy congratulated and appreciated the efforts involved in indigenous development of this vital technology.

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One thought

  1. Absolutely brilliant! There is just so much of incredible talent within the DRDO – they can set new standards for the world to envy. Is it only me that thinks that this talent is actually blooming since 2014 from when they started getting the kind of encouragement to take on challenges? Hats off to the whole team at DRDO. Jai Hind.

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