Induction heating for the aerospace industry
Specialized applications. Stringent quality levels. Tight leadtimes. The global aerospace industry sets tough demands on its parts and equipment suppliers. But they are the kind of demands that induction technology is uniquely qualified to satisfy.
Growing international trade and the boom in global tourism over the past two decades have stimulated spectacular growth in the aviation and aerospace industries. The demand for new planes — and the maintenance of existing fleets — has in turn led to the increased use of induction heating technology in numerous aerospacerelated applications.
So what makes induction heating so attractive to the aerospace industry? In short, the same features that make it attractive in so many other fields: it is a repeatable process, it is extraordinarily accurate, it is fast, it is controllable, it is energy efficient. It is also flexible. Induction heating is used to harden, temper, anneal, shrink fit, braze and melt a large range of components. And as an added bonus, induction heating can be mobile — especially good news for emergency repair crews and cramped workshops.
The specific demands of aerospace customers have also prompted technical advances in induction heating technology. One example is EFD Induction’s patented method for simultaneously delivering two different frequencies — one high and one low — to a single coil. This multi-frequency breakthrough made induction heating a practical choice for the contour hardening of geometrically complex components such as gears.
Induction brazing has long been used for maintaining and repairing aircraft. Common brazing uses include repairs to compressor fan blades, tube connections and cooling plates. However, induction brazing is being increasingly used during the actual production process for many aerospace-related components. Several factors contribute to this trend: compact and mobile converters, easy in-line integration, and extremely high uptime rates.
New challenges — new solutions
The growth of the aerospace industry hasn’t been free of challenges. Many governments, responding to widespread public concern, have legislated for quieter, cleaner and more fuel-efficient engines. Induction technology has played a key role in helping manufacturers meet these demands. Induction melting, for example, is used in vacuum furnaces to produce single- and poly-crystal turbine blades. Induction melting is also used in cold-crucible (autocrucible) solutions that result in exceptionally high purity rates for titanium and aluminum — materials widely used in the aerospace industry.
Correct pre- and post-heating processes are crucial to the aerospace industry, as they are essential to maintaining components’ integrity and safeguarding against metal fatigue and failure. EFD Induction bar end heating systems, for example, are used during the manufacture of the main engine shafts for the new Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane. EFD Induction solutions are also used to pre-heat engine bodies prior to welding.
Induction heating has already made tremendous contributions to the efficiency, safety and profitability of the aerospace industry. But more can be achieved. After all, with its precise, repeatable, controllable and contact-free heat delivery, induction is ideal for aerospace applications. We at EFD Induction are committed to perfecting even more of them.
Vulcain engines are used on the European Spage Agency's Ariane 5 rockets. The lightweight engine cone is made from graphite produced induction heating.