Since the beginning of the twentieth century, aircraft parts have undergone surface treatments, but techniques have advanced. And as proof, this is the the engine manufacturer Microturbo's brand new and fully automated workshop. Here, the subsidiary of Safran Group designs and manufactures aircraft parts that make up the starters, A.P.U's and turbines, and all treated in a series of five boiling hot baths. Primary objective: to fight against corrosion.
Stéphane Meyer - Surface Treatment Workshop Manager - Microturbo (Safran Group):
"To carry out an anti-corrosion treatment we always start by degreasing the parts to prepare the surface, after which, it is etched, and later, through chromium based products for example, we impregnate chrome superficially to the surface, which creates a barrier to the external environment, to finally produce the corrosion protection. In fact, if the parts are not treated, this could lead to the possibility of machine breakdowns or very limited engine life."
Beyond this protective function, a surface treatment is also used to strengthen aluminum or steel parts and spare parts, making them more robust by improving their basic properties. A complete cycle lasts between thirty minutes and three hours.
Thanks to this layer, which, according to the treatment, varies from 1-16 microns, or less than 0.02 mm, the pieces may encounter stresses to which they will be subjected during their operating temperatures of up to 900°C., or again, marine conditions, particularly aggressive for metals.
Microturbo equips fighter jets such as the Rafale, heavy helicopters such as the NH-90, and missiles. Today, 95% of its turnover comes from the military market but given the budget cuts in this sector, the engine manufacturer is giving itself 15 years to increase its work with the civil sector, and this, thanks to business aviation.
Pierre-Yves Morvan - CEO - Microturbo (Safran Group):
"Currently we have two products under development in partnership with Pratt & Whitney Aeropower; they are the APU's ( Auxiliary Power Units ) on the Dassault Falcon 5X and Bombardier Global 7000 / 8000, and are at present on the development testing and certification test benches."
It is no coincidence that Microturbo has invested nearly $ 2 million in these surface treatment baths. These new facilities will make it possible to increase productivity and optimize costs. With these equipment handling robots, equipped with sensors, 10,000 pieces per year are immersed in some 28,000 litres ( 7,400 U.S. gallons ) of chemical products and demineralised or distilled water, only six operators are required, which means that the risks involved, particularly from spattering and splashing, are now minimal.