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Key Engineering Materials Submitted: 2017-01-08

ISSN: 1662-9795, Vol. 764, pp 225-234 Accepted: 2017-02-05


doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/KEM.764.225
© 2018 Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland

Optimization and Affections of Cathode Feed Angle on Machining


Accuracy Error Distribution of Aero-Engine Blade in Electrochemical
Machining
ZHAO Zhiqiang1,a*, MA Zhigang1,b, LIU Yuetao2,c, WU Xiaolong3,d, GUO Hun4,e
1
Shenzhen Polytechnic, Shenzhen, 518055, China
2
Shandong University of Technology, Zibo, 255049, China
3
California State University Long Beach (CSULB), Long Beach, 90840, California, USA
4
School of Mechanical & Vehicle Engineering, Changzhou Institute of Technology,
Changzhou, 213031, China
a
396725088@qq.com, bmzg@szpt.edu.cn, clyt@sdut.edu.cn, dicfmt2010@126.com,
e
guoh@czust.edu.cn

Keywords: Aero-Engine Blade; Electrochemical Machining; Cathode; Angle Optimization; Error


Distribution

Abstract. Utilizing all-direction electrochemical machining (ECM) for super-thin twist aero-engine,
feed angle of tool cathode and blade fixture angle are investigated and optimized in this study. The
most optimal combination of the two angles (oblique feed angle of tool cathode and fixture angle of
blade stock) is selected from all 65341 angle combinations. Moreover, the affections of the optimized
angle combination on machining error distribution between blade shape and plate are concentrated.
The analysis and experimental results demonstrate that the optimized angle combination can satisfy
the machining requirements of blade shape and error distribution of blade shape and plate.

Introduction
As one of the most significant components of aero-engine, the machining accuracy and process
methods for making aero-engine blades become more and more important [1-2]. Nickel-based
super-alloys have found several applications in aero-engine blades, because of their superior strength
and excellent temperature resistance. Employed as the materials for the blades, these super-alloys
have remarkably improved the operability and efficiency of blades at extreme temperatures. However,
nickel-based super-alloys are also difficult to machine, and the fabrication of some complex
structures from these materials using the traditional machining processes can be quite problematic.
Aero-engine blades need to be machined with high machining efficiency and surface quality, the
fabrication of aero-engine blades used nickel-based super-alloys has been a significant challenge in
the aerospace manufacturing industry. Hence, a reliable and efficient process is urgently required for
producing these blades without surface defects like recast layers, heat-affected layers and cracks.
Some traditional machining methods for manufacturing aero-engine blades include precision casting,
electric discharge machining (EDM) and numerical control machining (NCM). However, there are
some technical disadvantages when using these machining processes mentioned above and in turn
limit its further applications [3-4]. For example, precision casting process might result in poor surface
quality. During the EDM process under low-speed, craters and recast layer usually cover on the blade
surface to reduce the surface quality. Moreover, tool paths resulting from NCM are easy to been
leaved on blade surface and therefore result in fatigue failure in service[5]. By contrast,
electrochemical machining (ECM) with high machining speed and surface quality was not affected by
blade materials strength, hardness, and toughness, physical and mechanical properties of restrictions
[6-8]
. Thus ECM has been widely used in aeronautic and astronautic industries, particularly in the full
production of aero-engine blades [9-10]. The all-direction electrochemical machining (all-direction
ECM) technology was springing up in recent years and has been applied in the mass production of
226 Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technology III

blade manufacturing [11-12]. The main characteristics of the all-direction ECM for blades is that the
feed direction of tool cathode is oblique along the axial direction of blade stock instead of the
traditional vertical feed direction. Moreover, there is normal feed component assigned in blade
platform. That means the oblique feed angle of tool cathode can affect the machining accuracy and
machining error for the profile and platform surface of blade [13]. Utilizing all-direction ECM for
super-thin twist aero-engine, feed angle of tool cathode and blade fixture angle were optimized in this
study. The affections of the optimized angle combination on machining error distribution between
blade profile and plate were concentrated. Regard a aero-engine compressor blade as the researched
objective, Fig.1 shows its 3D solid mode.

Blade Platform

Blade Profile

Fig.1 3D solid mode of one type of aero-engine blade

Fundamental Theory of All-Direction ECM


The principle of the ECM process is the anodic dissolution of a conductive material (anode) under
the presence of an electrolyte by a cathodically polarized tool in the so-called working gap. The
working gap is defined as the minimum distance between the surfaces of the tool electrode and the
workpiece. The positively charged metal ions released from the surface of the workpiece react with
the electrolyte to form metal-hydroxide compounds. There are many factors which affect the
machining quality in ECM such as feed rate of tool cathode, electrolyte conductivity, the current
density, the inter-electrode gap and so on. According to the principle of ECM, the velocity component
of feed rate V f of tool cathode in normal direction of blade stock surface is equal to anode dissolution
rate Va when ECM equilibrium state coming, as shown in Fig.2. The angle between the normal to
anode and the feed direction of cathode V f is 0˚ (A point), the machining gap is so-called the bottom
equilibrium gap  b .  b can be expressed as follows:
 kU R
b  (1)
Vf

In equation (1),  current efficiency, U R applied voltage,  the volume electrochemical equivalent
( cm3 / A  s ),  electrolyte conductivity ( 1/   cm ), V f feed rate of tool cathode. While, the
machining gap at point B is the normal gap  n . From the geometric relationship shown in Fig.2,
 n can be calculated by
 n   b / cos  (2)

Here  is the angle between V f and normal direction of blade profile.


Because the ECM process is very complex and often affected by some process factors,i.e.
electrolyte flow field, electric filed, anode material dissolution and gap distributions. In ECM process,
some unpredictable disturbances may cause  b to fluctuate which will be amplified 1/ cos at point B .
Key Engineering Materials Vol. 764 227

Obviously, when  =90˚, the fluctuation at point B will be amplified infinitely (this may not exist in
actual machining, only for theoretical analysis). In order to insure the machining accuracy of blade
profile, the angle  must be strictly limited, usually limited to 50˚ in ECM[14].
O

Electrolyte
θ

ν P
δn
θ
Cathode Surface B

Anode Surface
δb
Electrolyte
M A N

θ=0˚

Fig. 2 Principle diagram of ECM process

Schematic diagram of all-direction ECM is shown in Fig.3. The two tool cathodes for machining
concave and convex surface of blade feed to blade stock with identical oblique feeding angle  , while
the electrolyte along the axial direction blade is supplied. Meanwhile, there exit a specific feed
component of the tool cathode in the normal direction of blade platform, which will be beneficial to
improving the machining accuracy and efficiency of the blade platform. Based on the above analysis,
the angle  should be limited less than 50° in ECM process. There are two factors can
impact  distribution, as shown in Fig.3, they are oblique feed angle  of tool cathode and fixture
angle  of blade stock. Various angle combinations of  and  can accurately determine the
distribution of  . It is very critical to optimize the different angle combinations of  and  .

Angle Optimal Selection of  and 


In principle, the optimization rule for various angle combinations of  and  should be determined
firstly. According to ECM fundamental theories and blade machining experiences, angle optimal
selection of  and  uses the following rules:
Ⅰ. All the angles  corresponding to sampling points on blade profile must be less than 50°.
Ⅱ . With the identical oblique feeding angle  , the smaller sum of variance for the angle
 and  '' corresponding to sampling point on blade concave and convex surface, the more optimal
'

the  .
Angle optimization approach of  and  . The tool cathode for machining concave and convex
surface of blade feed from both sides of the blade stock with the identical oblique feeding angle  in
all-direction ECM process. Therefore, the variation range of fixture angle  of blade stock is 0˚ to
180˚, while the oblique feed  angle of tool cathode is 0˚ to 90˚.  =0° means the tool cathode feed
parallel to blade platform. Specific angle optimization approach of  and  was listed in Table 1.
Optimization results analysis of  and  . The optimization approach listed in Table 1 was realized
by operating the self-developed design program. Fig.4 shows us the optimization program computing
results of  and  for concave and convex surface of blade. The hemisphere covered the
angle  varied from 0˚ to 90˚ and  varied from 0˚ to 180˚, and then all 65341 angle combinations of
 and  were optimized according to the above rules. The optimization results demonstrated that
there were 1589 of the 65341 angle combinations can satisfied the ruleⅠ. In these 1589 combination,
228 Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technology III

the variation range of  was 0˚ to 32˚. Furthermore, the most optimal combination of  and  will
select from 1589 angle combinations by ruleⅡ. Table 2 listed the optimization results for partial
combinations of  and  . In Table 2, concave
'
is the average value of all  corresponding to 10000
sampling points on concave surface, max
'
is the maximum value in all  corresponding to 10000
sampling points.  ' is the variance value of  on concave surface of blade profile. The similar symbol
definitions are appropriate for convex surface of blade profile.

Tool Cathode
Feed Direction

Electrolyte Supply

Blade
Platform

Tool Cathode
Fixture Angle of Blade Stock
(β in range of 0-360˚)

Blade Stock

Fig.3 Schematic diagram of all-direction EDM process

Table 1 Angle optimization approach of  and 


Variation Variation Number of angle
Sampling points Angle
range of
on profile surface range of  increment combinations of  and 

Concave surface of
10000
blade/Convex surface 0-90˚ 0˚-180˚ 0.5˚ 65341
(100×100)
of blade
Key Engineering Materials Vol. 764 229

Concave Surface of Blade Convex Surface of Blade

Z Z

X Y Y
X

Fig. 4 Optimization program computing results of  and  for concave and convex surface of blade.

According to the optimization results, the concave'


and convex
'
increased with the increase of feed
angle  . Their values varied from 7.2° to 27.3° and 9.6° to 36.1° with  going up from 0° to 32°. In
contrast, the sum of  ' and  '' get smaller and smaller (from10.2° to 6.51° ) with  going up from 0° to
29.5°. According to the optimization results listed in table 2 , the most optimal combination: oblique
feed angle  of tool cathode is 29.5° and fixture angle (  concave /  convex ) of blade stock is 95°∕85°.
Table 2 Optimal combinations of  and 

 0˚ 2.5˚ 5.0˚ 7.5˚ 10.0˚ 12.5˚ 15.0˚ 17.5˚ 20.0˚ 22.5˚ 25.0˚ 27.5˚ 29.5˚ 32.0˚

βconcave 94.0˚ 93.5˚ 96.5˚ 97.0˚ 95.5˚ 95.0˚ 96.5˚ 96.0˚ 94.5˚ 93.5˚ 95.0˚ 92.5˚ 95.0˚ 94.5˚

βconvex 86.0˚ 86.5˚ 83.5˚ 83.0˚ 84.5˚ 85.0˚ 83.5˚ 84.0˚ 85.5˚ 86.5˚ 85.0˚ 87.5˚ 85.0˚ 85.5˚

concave
'
7.2˚ 6.8˚ 5.4˚ 7.6˚ 6.8˚ 11.2˚ 10.9˚ 13.7˚ 15.5˚ 14.6˚ 20.2˚ 22.9˚ 25.0˚ 27.3˚

θ'max 35.1˚ 35.7˚ 34.2˚ 34.6˚ 33.9˚ 34.9˚ 35.1˚ 33.9˚ 36.1˚ 37.8˚ 39.8˚ 40.7˚ 47.6˚ 48.9˚

convex
'
9.6˚ 10.7˚ 12.8˚ 13.8˚ 16.4˚ 16.9˚ 20.8˚ 22.4˚ 25.1˚ 25.9˚ 29.7˚ 31.6˚ 34.4˚ 36.1˚

θ''max 32.3˚ 32.8˚ 31.9˚ 33.5˚ 33.7˚ 34.9˚ 36.9˚ 36.8˚ 37.4 40.9˚ 41.8 42.3˚ 48.4˚ 49.2˚

θ' 3.91 3.95 4.20 4.11 3.80 3.57 3.24 3.18 3.08 3.26 3.16 3.24 3.12 3.56

θ'' 6.32 5.90 5.30 4.86 4.64 4.46 4.32 4.18 3.99 3.67 3.59 3.42 3.39 3.68

θ'+θ'' 10.23 9.85 9.50 8.97 8.44 8.03 7.56 7.36 7.07 6.93 6.75 6.66 6.51 7.24

Effects of Optimization Results of  and  On Distribution of Machining Accuracy Error. The


paper details the process characteristics of all-direction ECM for blade machining. The advantage of
all-direction ECM is that profile and platform of blade can be formed at one time. According to the
different angle combinations of  and  , the critical problem is that reasonable distribution of
machining accuracy error for profile and platform of blade, this section will focus on this issue. As
mentioned above, the ECM process may effected by some unpredictable disturbances factors easily
and in turn cause  b fluctuations. Here the fluctuation quantity of  b can be defined as  . In view of
230 Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technology III

equation (2),  will be magnified 1/ cos and applied to blade profile and meanwhile also
magnified 1/ sin  on blade platform, as shown in Fig.5. The variation of  b result in machining
accuracy error for blade profile and platform surface. Because the angle  at different sampling points
at blade profile surface is varied, the fluctuation error is not the same. Considering the most extreme
harmful conditions, calculate the maximum error (err1) for blade profile surface. Due to the plan of
blade platform, the normal directions of different location are identical, so the fluctuation errors are
the same and defined as error 2.
Table 3 and Table 4 listed the machining accuracy error distribution resulting from concave,
convex surface and blade platform in condition of different. In view of the platform of blade is a plane,
usually can be amplified to 75°. Therefore, they will start from15°.
According to the machining requirements of blade profile and platform, the machining accuracy
of blade profile is no more than 0.06 mm, and the machining accuracy of blade platform no more than
0.09 mm. The machining accuracy ratio of profile and platform is 1:1.5. From Table 3 and Table 4,
when  =29.5°, the machining accuracy error ratio resulting from concave and convex surface and
platform are 1:1.37 and 1:1.35 (<1:1.5) and satisfy the error distribution requirements totally.

Normal Direction of Blade Surface

Blade Profile
Feed Direction of Tool Cathode
α

Normal Direction of Blade Platform

Platform

Fig. 5 Schematic diagram of angles between feed direction of tool and platform normal and blade
surface normal
Therefore, the tool cathode oblique feeding with  =29.5°, not only can satisfied the blade profile
requirement, but can satisfied the error distribution requirements for blade profile and platform. In the
end, the most optimal oblique feed angle of tool cathode is determined as 29.5°. The distribution
relation of machining error for blade profile and platform is shown in Fig. 6.
As shown in Fig. 6, the machining error for blade profile and platform was decreased with feed
angle of tool cathode increasing. The blade profile included the concave and the convex surface. With
the feed angle of tool cathode was 15.0˚, the machining error ratio (r1) between error on platform of
blade and error on concave surface was3.16, and the machining error ratio (r2) between error on
platform of blade and error on convex surface was 3.09, which were arrived at the maximum value.
When the feed angle of tool cathode was increased to 29.5˚, the r1and r2 was respectively reduced to
the lowest (1.35 and 1.37).

Experiment Works
In order to verify the validity of the optimization results of oblique feed angle  of tool cathode, some
experiments for machining blades were conducted on an industrial ECM machine tools JAPAX-300.
Firstly, the specific fixture insuring the correct fix position of blade stock were design and
manufactured. In ECM process, the oblique feed angle  of blade cathode was set as 29.5°. Fig.7
Key Engineering Materials Vol. 764 231

shows us the fixture position of blade stock in the special fixture. Table 5 listed the machining
parameters using in ECM experiments. Fig.8 shows the machined blade samples. Fig.9 shows us the
specialized measure tool for measuring the machining accuracy of blade profile and platform surface.
Table 3 Error distribution relation between concave surface and platform of blade
Oblique feed Fixture angle of Maximum angle θ Maximum error Machining
angle α of tool blade stock corresponding to (err1) on error (err2)
err1:err2
cathode βconcave/βconvex sampling points on concave surface on platform
concave surface of blade
0.0˚ 94.0˚/86.0˚ 35.1˚
Sampling
points on 5.0˚ 96.5˚/83.5˚ 34.2˚
concave 10.0˚ 95.5˚/84.5˚ 33.9˚
surface
10000 15.0˚ 96.5˚/83.5˚ 35.1˚ 1.22δ 3.86δ 1:3.16
(100×100) 20.0˚ 94.5˚/85.5˚ 36.1˚ 1.24δ 2.92δ 1:2.35
25.0˚ 95.0˚/85.0˚ 39.8˚ 1.30δ 2.37δ 1:1.82
29.5˚ 95.0˚/85.0˚ 47.6˚ 1.49δ 2.04δ 1:1.37
32.0˚ 94.5˚/85.5˚ 48.9˚ 1.52δ 1.89δ 1:1.24

Table 4 Error distribution relation between convex surface and platform of blade
Oblique feed Fixture angle of Maximum angle θ Maximum Machining
angle α of tool blade stock corresponding to error( err1) on error( err2)
err1:err2
cathode βconcave/βconvex sampling points on convex surface on platform
convex surface of blade
Sampling
0.0˚ 94.0˚/86.0˚ 32.3˚
points
on convex 5.0˚ 96.5˚/83.5˚ 31.9˚
surface 10.0˚ 95.5˚/84.5˚ 33.7˚
10000 15.0˚ 96.5˚/83.5˚ 36.9˚ 1.25δ 3.86δ 1:3.09
(100×100)
20.0˚ 94.5˚/85.5˚ 37.4˚ 1.27δ 2.92δ 1:2.29
25.0˚ 95.0˚/85.0˚ 41.8˚ 1.34δ 2.37δ 1:1.76
29.5˚ 95.0˚/85.0˚ 48.4˚ 1.51δ 2.04δ 1:1.35
32.0˚ 94.5˚/85.5˚ 49.2˚ 1.53δ 1.89δ 1:1.24

Table 5 Machining Parameters Used in the ECM Process


Electrolyte parameters
Applied Initial Electrolyte Cathode
Blade
voltage gap component & Temperature feed rate
material
(V) (mm) Concentration (℃) (mm/min)
(wt%)
2Cr13 14.5 0.4 NaNO3 ; 15 35.0 0.35
232 Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technology III

3.5 Curve1: Relation curve of machining error distribution between concave and platform
Curve1: Relation curve of machining error distribution between convex and platform

3.0
Error ratio of blade profile and platform

Curve1
2.5

Curve 2

2.0

1.5

1.0
14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34
Feed Angel of tool cathode(˚)
Fig .6 Distribution relation of machining error for blade profile and platform surface

Blade Stock

Fig.7 The fixture position of blade stock

blades

Fig.8 The machined blade samples Fig.9 Blade profile accuracy measurement

According to the machining accuracy requirement of blade profile, the maximum accuracy error
should be no more than 0.06 mm. After measurement, the measure results demonstrated that the
middle part of blade profile with high machining accuracy, the tip and root near blade platform with
slightly less accuracy, but all measure accuracy is no more than 0.06 mm. In addition, the platform
accuracy is below the required 0.09 mm and exhibits the perfect flatness.
Key Engineering Materials Vol. 764 233

Conclusion
Based on all-direction ECM process, this study investigated the effects of feed angle of tool
cathode on machining accuracy of blade profile and error distribution relation between profile and
platform in detail. The feed angle of tool cathode and fixture angle of blade stock was optimized by
the optimization rules. The most optimal oblique feed angle  of tool cathode was determined as
29.5°. In the end, some verification experiments for machining blades were conducted and verified
the validity of the optimal results of  .

Acknowledgments
The work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.
51405277), Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province (ZR2014EEM038), the Policy
Guidance Program of Jiangsu Province (Research Cooperation) (BY2016031-01) and Six talent
peaks project in Jiangsu Province (2014-ZBZZ-030).
Corresponding author: Liu Yuetao, School of Mechanical Engineering, Shandong University of
Technology. Email: lyt@sdut.edu.cn. Research field: nontraditional machining, electrochemical
micro-machining.

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