April 21, 2009
by Noelle Stapinsky, Features Editor
A partnership between a Winnipeg college and a leading aerospace engine repair company will bring technological firsts to Canadian industry and maintain Manitoba’s competitive edge in the booming aerospace industry.
Red River College of Applied Arts and Technology (RRC) and Standard Aero, part of DAE Co. and one of the largest independent aviation engine MRO businesses worldwide, recently established the Centre for Aerospace Technology and Training (CATT). Created for the development of new and innovative aerospace technologies/techniques, it will be outfitted with specialized laser and robotic equipment.
The facility, made possible by $4.2 million in federal and provincial funding, allows students to work along side Standard Aero staff in research and development using the latest laser technology. The facility will house five different sets of customized equipment and laser systems, two of which have already been installed.
The centre, located only a few blocks from the college’s Notre Dame campus, will be housed in one of Standard Aero’s engine repair and development buildings.
The company, established in Winnipeg and headquartered in Arizona, specializes in engine maintenance, VIP completions, helicopters and aviation.
The centre’s two systems, now installed, have robotic welding and laser cladding capabilities. There’s a small manual Rofin-Sinar StarWeld Integral micro laser used for precision welds with less power, and a med-powered laser system that’s capable of drilling precise holes, cutting and cladding—a process similar to metalizing that adheres material by melting a powder with a laser.
“[Cladding] is very similar to welding, but with a laser you’re able to do it much more precisely with less heat so there’s less damage to the material,” says Kerry Boucher, Standard Aero’s vice-president of engineering. “It uses less material, so there’s less waste than traditional welding.”
The manual micro laser is capable of doing fine repairs, such as filling hairline cracks or repairing spots as small as 1/10-mm in diameter.
“This gives us the opportunity to do advanced metallurgy, where students can look at very small heat-affected zones. They can see what happens in non-ferrous metals,” explains Fred Doern, RRC’s chair of the mechanical manufacturing and communications department.