Small Business Innovation Research Contracts

Mistuning has vexed engineers for decades. The turbine blades in an aircraft engine are part of a dynamic system with a complex vibratory response.

Blade Diagnostics received its first of four Phase II SBIR awards to develop these unique and groundbreaking technologies. Following these SBIR success, BDC was awarded an RIF post-SBIR transition contract in 2012 and has successfully transitioned the technology into the USAF repair depot for the warfighter engine. By enabling repair instead of replacement and catching problems early, cost savings can be significant, and the saving of just one catastrophic loss is priceless.

Taking a technology from concept to commercialization can be arduous for a small business. The SBIR program was crucial to the technology’s development, as was the help and support of dedicated Air Force personnel. Their efforts and foresight benefitted the DoD’s next generation fighters, and beyond.

The SBIR program was crucial to the 10-year development of BDC HCF management technologies for the Air Force warfighter engine and for commercial application in energy turbines.

“Replacing one stage could cost $2 million, and each engine has 9 stages. The BDC technology could reduce fleet sustainment costs in the F135 as well as the F119 engine,” stated the AF Technical Program Manager.

United States Air Force

SmartBlend™ is now part of the repair workflow at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City where jet engines are disassembled, inspected, and repaired. The technology is expected to result in significant cost savings.

“This technology is critical for the long-term sustainment of IBRs,” notes the AF Life Cycle Management Center, program manager for the Rapid Innovation contract.

The AFRL engineer responsible for helping reduce maintenance costs, sees BDC technology as the “best chance of extending repairs for those IBRs, which are very expensive parts.”

Siemens

Siemens purchased an exclusive BDC health monitoring software license for land based power systems used to detect and track cracks in turbine blades.

Turbine blades can fail from high cycle fatigue caused by excessive vibratory response. Siemens measures the vibratory response of their turbines while they are in continuous operation. BDC’s EzID™ software processes the data and extracts the frequencies of the individual blades. When a blade develops a crack its frequency drops. The BDC/Siemens health monitoring system detects very small cracks and monitors how they change over time. Service intervals can be scheduled to minimize downtime and significantly reduce maintenance costs. Using BDC’s Health Monitoring Software significantly reduces the risk of blade separation, which can cause a financial loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Blade Sequencing™ Software

BDC’s Blade Sequencing Software is being used as standard work during engine assembly to reduce vibratory response in a low pressure turbine stage of a U.S. warfighter engine.

Blades used in turbines have attachments that insert into slots in the disk. Each blade has a different frequency and the order that the blades are inserted in the disk affects the blades’ vibratory response. BDC has developed a method for using the bench frequencies of individual blades to predict how the bladed disk assembly will vibrate in the engine. The software evaluates thousands of different blade sequences to find the best blade arrangement that balances the rotor and has low vibratory response.