The NIST Advanced Technology Program has announced that it will renew a multiyear research award to Precision Castparts Corp. (Portland, Ore.) to develop innovative casting technology that combines the superalloy processing capabilities of investment casting with the economic advantages of sand casting to produce large superalloy castings, such as exhaust frames for industrial gas turbine engines.
The amount of the current award renewal is $491,411. The original three-year project, begun in 1995, was projected to receive a total of approximately $2 million in ATP funding, matched by approximately $949,000 in industry funding.
Advanced Technology Program awards are designed to help industry pursue risky, challenging technologies that have the potential for a big payoff for the nation’s economy. ATP projects focus on enabling technologies that will create opportunities for new, world-class products, services and industrial processes, benefiting not just the ATP participants but other companies and industries—and ultimately consumers and taxpayers. The ATP’s cost-shared funding enables industry to pursue promising technologies that otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets.
Detailed information on this project, Development of Casting Technology to Produce Large Superalloy Castings for Industrial Applications, is provided below.
Build an industrial gas turbine (IGT) engine that can run hotter, more efficiently, and more reliably than today's versions, and industries from electric power generation to chemical processing stand to benefit. Among utilities, high-temperature turbine generators would allow greater variety in the fuels that are burned, while increasing energy output. At the same time, more efficient engines would burn more cleanly, making it easier for utilities to meet air-emissions standards. Component technologies needed to realize these benefits already exist, but cost-effective processes required to apply some of the key technologies do not. Current casting methods, for example, are inadequate for making sufficiently large parts from superalloys. As a result, the performance-improving advantages of high-temperature-resistant metals cannot be fully exploited in IGT engines. Precision Castparts Corp. proposes to overcome this by developing methods that combine the advantages of sand casting and investment casting. In sand casting, structures of virtually any size can be cast, but destructive reactions between the sand mold and the superalloys preclude using the sand-casting technique with advanced metals. Investment casting is a high-precision, higher-cost process used to make superalloy parts, but maximum part sizes are too small for the largest IGT engine components. PCC aims for a major advance in casting technology that would make larger-scale superalloy castings economically practical for a variety of industrial applications. An initial target will be large IGT engine exhaust frames—cavernous structures now made from sand-cast chrome steel and welded superalloy assemblies. With the process that PCC aims to develop, these exhaust frames, which measure up to 3.5 meters in diameter, could be cast as a single superalloy unit. Anticipated benefits will be fewer and lower-cost subcomponents, greater reliability, greater energy efficiency, and lower emissions. By the year 2000, the international market for IGT engine exhaust frames alone is predicted to be about $20 million. The ability to cast large-scale superalloy components would constitute a major advance in processing technology, providing U.S. foundries with an opportunity to develop new markets.
Precision Castparts Corporation
Technologies: Materials Processing for Heavy Manufacturing
Project length: 3 years
ATP funds: $2,000 K
Cost-shared funds (est.): $949 K
Total project funds (est.): $2,949 K
Contact: Dwight Weber, (503) 417-4855