Manufacturing Month: Hot Section Module Center's Investment in Automation Increases Volume, Quality and Safety

Automation is actively contributing to increased capability in Pratt & Whitney's Hot Section Module Center, as it modernizes and transforms its operations for the production ramp up. The Hot Section Module Center recently installed three "overspray removal" robotic cells that work side by side with the ceramic coating operators.

"It was a previously labor-intensive process done by manually grinding off the overspray and it's now been dramatically improved helping to prevent ergonomic risk to the machine operators," said Richard Depalma, an airfoil cell operator in the Hot Section Module Center. These advancements in technology are not only efficient, but necessary as production ramps up.

Automation allows for two operations to be done simultaneously. It enables the operator to consistently coat more parts instead of stopping mid process and manually grinding overspray, thereby helping to increase both quality and output. Production efficiency and robotic automation has also contributed to significant cost reductions to help meet the aggressive ramp up goals.

"We would not be able to keep up with the ramp in production without the innovations in technology being implemented. We're producing higher quality parts faster, leaner and safer," said Bart Palmieri, a member of the Next-Generation Robotics Team and coatings engineer in the Turbine Module Center. "The state-of-the-art technology has features programmed in, to provide safety to the operator. The use of light curtains and cameras enables the selection of the airfoil as well as prevents the operator from occupying the same space as the robot at the same time, avoiding the risk of injury."

With the unprecedented ramp in production upon us, the new overspray removal robots have helped make tremendous improvements to quality and overall production of parts in the Hot Section Module Center in East Hartford.

"With the benefits of safety, quality and efficiency, we are well on our way to meeting our goals. We strive to achieve the highest quality and safety standards," Palmieri said. "These investments help achieve that and are only the beginning for robotics automation."

Palmieri was part of the One Company Automation Deployment Team, which received a Leadership Award in 2014 for developing solutions to improve through-put and capital costs and improve Environment, Health & Safety impact through the deployment of next-generation robotic processes.

By making advancements in technology at Pratt & Whitney Amercon that are similar to the current capabilities in East Hartford, the Hot Section Module Center has effectively created no single point of failure for its new customer.

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