Metallic engine components and aircraft structures experience damage in operation due to a range of events including impact, wear/ erosion, corrosion and cracking. This may result in the need to remove components for repair, replace the whole component or even conduct substantial structural repair, which impacts on the availability of the aircraft to the ADF as well as the cost of ownership to Defence.
DMTC industry partner RUAG Australia has been working with DST Group and researchers from RMIT and Swinburne University to employ laser-based additive manufacturing techniques (known as Laser Cladding Technology or LCT) for the repair of components. LCT is a process that repairs a surface by first machining down the worn surface and building it back up by depositing cladding material in thin layers.
The team has identified key components for both structural and geometrical repair and are now working to optimise the LCT process parameters to achieve Defence’s strict regulatory standards. DST Group has undertaken repair work on the nose landing gear for the F/A-18F Super Hornet, along with mechanical properties characterisation. Experimental investigation on optimising the process parameters involved in laser cladding for repair of 300M structures has commenced at RMIT.
Similarly, experimental studies of laser cladding of 316L stainless steel on mild steel substrates is being conducted at SUT. Results indicate that there is significant variation in mechanical strength at the interface of the cladded structure.
Further investigation is underway to obtain a feasible and cost-effective solution for both structural and geometrical restoration.