Matrix Composites Inc. (Rockledge, Fla., USA) says it has delivered its final low rate initial production (LRIP) composite wind tunnel blade spacer to the United States Air Force. The multi-million dollar contract was awarded in 2011 for an initial quantity of nine LRIPs, to be followed by the manufacture of more than 200 production spacers. Full rate production efforts are expected to extend into 2015.
The composite turbine blade spacer assemblies are highly complex, fully integrated structures that are used in the PWT 16T C-1 compressor at the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) testing facility at Arnold Air Force Base (Manchester, Tenn., USA). The transonic compressor is approximately 36 ft/11m in diameter and is powered by electric motors totaling nearly 300,000 hp. Using carbon fiber construction and Matrix’s expertise in composites design and precision closed molding, Matrix was able to significantly increase performance and durability from the previous spacer design. In addition to the improved performance, the Matrix engineering team reduced the weight of each assembly by 27 lb/12.2 kg, or 60 percent.
“This last LRIP delivery from Matrix marks a major milestone for the program,” says Dan Simpson, Matrix Composites’ engineering director. “Our team worked diligently to ensure that all programmatic objectives were met and that this critical milestone was accomplished on time.”
Matrix Composites’ president David Nesbitt adds, “Utilization of state-of-the-art closed molding methods has enabled our team to create an optimized solution for this high-load, high-fatigue environment. It’s a good example of what can be achieved when the right materials are combined with the right manufacturing methods. A 60 percent weight reduction is significant and will ultimately enhance aerodynamic and propulsion testing capability for our military.”