The aerospace industry is always at the forefront of technological advancements, constantly striving for more innovative materials and more effective manufacturing processes. However, given the nature of the application, safety is always an imperative, which also controls the way that processes evolve and the verification of materials that can be used. Every element of manufacturing must be consistently repeatable and auditable to give total confidence in the end result.
These same disciplines are required of the wash systems that operate as part of aerospace manufacturing processes, whether supporting the manufacture of engines, actuation systems, sensors, or simple fasteners.
MecWash Systems Ltd has worked with major aerospace customers across the globe to develop efficient bespoke parts washing processes and systems to drive the effectiveness and reliability of their cleaning operations. This experience helps us to understand the complexity of the challenge and the unique requirements of many applications, which may affect the process options and chemistry used. For example, some components could be damaged by ultrasonics, excessive pressure or poor fixturing. Others are incompatible with particular chemistries or temperatures, which may cause longer term reliability problems. But despite potential constraints, high cleanliness specifications must always be delivered.
John Pattison, Managing Director of MecWash, comments: “MecWash customers include some of the most prominent blue-chip aerospace companies such as BAE, Meggitt, UTC and SPS. Our team has developed system solutions to address the cleaning challenges of each individual application.
“We know that substandard cleaning will breach stringent requirements, so the need to achieve a first-class finish in aerospace is paramount. We work with customers to fully understand their situation and build their parts washing system to surpass expectations, no matter the application.” said Pattison.
MecWash appreciates that some applications require a long development process working in partnership with a manufacturer. For example, MecWash spent about two years working on one blade cleaning application from concept design, through prototyping, then numerous trials and supporting the internal approval process for the required process change, before building the final system. MecWash is comfortable making the investment to develop relationships with key customers.
Different aerospace applications can require a variety of different wash solutions.
MecWash has designed and built systems to wash a wide range of the most challenging components with complex geometries or with tenacious contamination including high and medium pressure blades at various stages of manufacture, bearing housings, NGVs, heat exchangers and heat shields. In addition to our more standard systems, two were developed specifically for engine components.
The SuperMaxi is the largest parts washing machine made by MecWash and can clean components such as bearing housings, blisks and intercases. The system includes our unique direct jetting technique, where the component is held in a rotating fixture with nozzles built into it, that continuously flush out critical features, blind holes or oil ways as the component rotates. Along with the flood and spray wash and rinse stages, this dedicated jetting provides powerful cleaning and highly focussed contaminant removal for engine components.
A second tailor made system is the BladeWash, created to address the tough challenge of flushing the internal cooling channels of high-pressure turbine blades. This unique system was developed by working closely with a leading blade manufacturer. The system holds the blades firmly while high speed / volume flushing over and through the blades takes place.
Actuators and Controls
MecWash clean a very broad range of actuation systems for aerospace customers, from hydraulic manifolds to gears. Applications range from control surfaces to undercarriage and brakes with customers including Goodrich and Meggitt.
The precise nature of these actuation systems demands very high cleanliness standards and MecWash’s MWX400 system with flood washing, ultrasonics at 20 watts / litre and vacuum drying is typically used to remove the coolant, oil, and other contamination to hit tight cleanliness standards.
Sensors require very high specification cleaning, but often need a delicate touch to avoid potential harm. The MWX300 is a small footprint high specification system, that often fits well in the smaller production facilities for these high value components, while delivering the highest cleanliness standards.
MecWash has decades of experience of working with aerospace fastener manufacturers, including SPS Technologies, to build systems for the cleaning of high volumes of titanium, brass, and steel fasteners. A high volume, good quality and good value system is typically required for these components.
The MecWash Duo is the most used machine by customers manufacturing fasteners. Suitable for both large components and dense baskets of small parts, the flood wash, spray rinse and hot air dry gives a simple but consistent wash process for such parts.
As well as delivering the highest cleanliness standards, aerospace companies require precise process control. MecWash systems support this with their fully integrated communications architecture. Each system comes with a built in eWon router that enables an external connection via a guest network (outside the firewall protected system) to the PLC. Once connected, the system’s Profibus connectivity allows you to inspect not only the PLC & HMI but the pneumatic valve island, inverters, and individual sensors. This approach is ideal for both maintenance and remote support.
John Pattison continued: “The majority of manufacturers in aerospace are focused on reducing their environmental impact wherever possible. Using a MecWash machine can contribute to this in a couple of ways. First, selecting an aqueous wash solution is far preferable for both the workforce and the environment than toxic solvents. Secondly, a MecWash machine is very efficient in its use of water. We have developed the Aqua-Save system, that allows the wash and rinse solutions to be continuously recycled, greatly reducing the frequency of replacing the wash and rinse solutions.”
MecWash’s rigorous approach to aerospace components always starts with the in-house laboratory. Components are tested for cleanliness. Contaminants and substrates are assessed with different processes and chemistries and numerous options can be examined before machine trials begin. “With the experience of the team at MecWash, we are confident in our ability to build the optimum machine for any application within aerospace.” said John.