SwRI to develop inspection methods under FAA contract

Southwest Research Institute is leading a team effort to develop new inspection methods for nickel alloy billet materials used in commercial aircraft engine components under a new USD 1.6M Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contract.

SwRI will work with the vendor that supplies the alloys and the component manufacturers to develop a new calibration standard and new inspection methods. It plans to create synthetic anomalies in nickel alloy 718 test specimens and use CT scanning to locate and examine the defects. It will also assess inspection methods adopted by other industries and adapt aspects of them to gauge whether they are more effective than current procedures.

SwRI has a long history of working to improve the safety of commercial aircraft. The Probabilistic Integrity and Risk Assessment of Turbine Engines (PIRATE-3) program, which was created to assess the risk of fracture in engine rotors, is now in its third phase. In that program, SwRI engineers created DARWIN® (Design Assessment of Reliability with INspection), a fracture mechanics and reliability assessment software tool that supports damage tolerant design and analysis of metallic structural components. Aircraft manufacturers across the globe use this tool to ensure that engine designs are resistant to dangerous cracks.