EPCOR reduces scrap and improves predictive maintenance
EPCOR Reduces Scrap and Improves Predictive Maintenance
EPCOR B.V. specializes in repairing, maintaining, and overhauling pneumatic components and auxiliary power units (APUs). These are gas turbine engines, usually found in the tail of the plane, that provide electrical power for the aircraft’s systems and devices (such as air conditioning or cockpit controls), and for the engine start. Most of the APUs that come in for service at EPCOR’s facility near Schiphol International Airport are usually high-time units that require a full-service package.
“Cost efficiency is more important than ever for airlines. They first need to earn money before they can spend it. Every dollar counts, and we invest in technology that helps to lower the costs for our customers,” says Leon Boersma, EPCOR’s Quality & Safety Officer. EPCOR has found a way to lower the number of scrap parts, which then lowers the maintenance costs for its customers: with optical measurement technology from ZEISS.
Hard data serves the customers’ trust
In the past, the turbine and compressor parts were inspected visually to determine whether erosion and other defects were still within the OEM’s limits. To obtain higher certainty and accuracy in such situations, EPCOR decided to introduce ScanBox, a compact optical 3D measuring machine that can inspect parts with a size of up to 800 mm. For airfoil inspections, this ScanBox can measure sharp radii with a resolution of up to 20 measuring points per millimeter.
The system operates on the GOM Inspect Pro software, to which the GOM Blade Inspect Pro package was added. This package is specifically designed for the aerospace industry to evaluate the status of any turbine part at any time during its life cycle. The automatic surface deviation calculation provides the digital data for visual inspections. It’s possible to identify production residues, wear and tear, and surface defects and use the data for adaptive machining.
The native quality control functions within GOM Blade Inspect for the analysis of airfoils and turbine blades indeed leave no room for doubt. It’s possible to make a detailed inspection and analysis of the profile mean line, profile centroid and the profile thickness of turbine blades based on 2D sections. The center of gravity, radii and twist of the profile can also be computed. The possibility of reporting the inspections and analyses of a certain part helps to discuss and validate findings, cross-departmentally or to the customer. As a result, EPCOR has been able to sharply reduce the amount of unnecessary scrap, which benefits the airlines and the aerospace industry in general.
Reduce costs by repairing in time
Boersma also emphasizes the transparency towards the customer: “Everyone can scrap a part that’s visibly past its life span. If you have a blade with a complex airfoil shape and your limit is 0.2 mm of erosion, it depends on the feeling of the person inspecting it. The engineer will compare old and new blades and say it’s good. The mechanic will want to be on the safe side and say the blade needs to be exchanged. Thanks to ScanBox, we can substantiate why we do or just do not scrap a part.”
In addition to boosting productivity, improving accuracy and reducing unnecessary scrap, ScanBox is also being used to improve EPCOR’s predictions about future maintenance and service costs. “For example, if we can link the scanned erosion on blades to a certain exhaust gas temperature (EGT), our predictions about the remaining life of the APU will become more accurate,” says Robbert Kroese, marketing specialist at EPCOR. “If the APU fails, the engine will fail too, eventually. The customer will save money because they get the most out of their parts and assets. Thanks to the ScanBox system, we can advise our customers better, simply because we have better data.”
EPCOR B.V., part of the Air France–KLM Group, provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for pneumatic components and APUs for airlines around the world. More than a third of all worldwide Boeing 777 and 787 APU repairs are done by EPCOR. In addition to its state-of-the-art testing facilities, EPCOR is also a frontrunner in predictive maintenance based on Big Data. Its cutting-edge proprietary predictive-maintenance algorithm, called Prognos® for APU, allows ECPOR to determine the optimum time on wing for APUs and increase an engine’s operational reliability.