Support Equipment: An Incredible Array of Tools Had To Be Developed for GTF Engines

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It takes about 1,200 unique and specialized tools and pieces of support equipment to support Pratt & Whitney's new PW1100G-JM PurePower® Geared Turbofan™ (GTF) engine when in operation.

The tools – a complete set of which could cost millions of dollars – are sold to airlines and MRO (maintenance repair and overhaul) shops.

It takes about five years of planning and design work to manufacture and certify a set of tools for a new Pratt & Whitney engine, said Alan Cucca, product line manager, Commercial Maintenance Data and Support Equipment, Customer Support and Services. For the new GTF engines, that effort involved about 70 Pratt & Whitney employees across a number of different departments, including Engineering, Operations and Customer Support, he said.

"The support equipment for these engines has heavily leveraged latest design technology," said Brenda Mitchell, director of Military Customer Support and Services. "Some of this tooling is very unique and presented the team with significant challenges due to the engine architecture. The engine has some very tight tolerance requirements which drive some of these challenges.

"From a technology standpoint, the support equipment designs were generated using 3D modeling and some of them were also verified using our 3D printing capability to perform fit/tolerance checks and proof of concepts."

The thousands of pieces of equipment that were designed for the new GTF engine series include tools to assemble, disassemble and overhaul the engines, tools that are used as part of the PHST (packaging, handling, storage and transportation) process, and a set of roughly 100 tools that are designed for use while the engine is still on the wing, according to Thomas Poncini, program manager for Support Equipment Commercial Programs and Support Equipment Operations, and Mike Biernacki, manager of the PHST group.

The GTF engine tool kit is not only large, but it is also sophisticated and incredibly diverse.

The less complex tools, such as alignment pins, look like the pins and fasteners you'd find at the local hardware store. However, many of the tools are much more complex and specialized.

A list of the more sophisticated tools developed for the GTF engines would include a rotor module stand that looks like a futuristic go-cart. A bearing module assembly/disassembly tool that looks a lot like a two-legged robot. This tool has a midsection comprised of a pair of flat discs and a tool used to preload assembled high pressure compressor (HPC) rotors and stretch the tie shaft in a vertical position during HPC module assembly.

Other types of tooling required for inspections and repair include borescopes – optical devices consisting of a tube with an eyepiece on one end and a lens or camera on the other used to visually inspect otherwise inaccessible areas. Some borescopes have tools attached to afford blend capability which allows certain imperfections on parts within the core of the engine to be repaired to allowable limits. Borescope guide tubes were also designed to allow the borescope to be guided to specific areas.

"These GTF engine tools include heaters, build fixtures, pedestal and platforms as well as module shipping containers and transport stands," Poncini said. "Each was planned and designed to accomplish a particular operation for a particular engine part. We were also able to take advantage of the synergies on the GTF engines by using common and existing tools whenever possible."

Overall the tooling that has been developed to support the GTF engine, both on wing and off, will ensure that the maintenance required to keep the engines in optimum condition will be done in the safest, most efficient manner possible.

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