When To Upgrade Engine Test Cells

August 17, 2022 - Author: Joe Sweeney - Engineering Manager, Integration Engineering, Matt Thiel - Director, Integration Engineering

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When to upgrade engine test cells

When Does Aircraft Engine Technology Require Testing Upgrades?

Staying current with aircraft engine technology is key in the aerospace business, requiring up-to-date equipment capable of testing complex machines since companies want to keep equipment running as long as possible to get the most out of their investment. At the same time, they don’t want to wait until something breaks because shutting down a test facility is to be avoided at all costs. Preventing shutdowns begins with a strategic upgrade plan.

In the article published in Aerospace Manufacturing and Design, Joe Sweeney, Engineering Manager, Integration Engineering, and Matt Thiel, Director, Integration Engineering, address the three pillars when it comes to upgrading engine test cells:

  1. Failing to plan – To maintain in-house repairs, an airline’s Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) test facility needed an adapter for an old engine. The aging test cell couldn’t handle the engine’s airflow, risking unreliable results. Despite the risk, upgrading was chosen over a new test cell to save costs. However, when newer engines required testing, the existing test cell couldn’t accommodate them. Instead of investing earlier, the airline now relies on external MROs, highlighting the importance of timely decisions on adaptation, upgrade, or replacement.
  2. Time to upgrade – When equipment fails or starts to show wear and tear, upgrades are necessary. Aircraft engine design, which often holds up for decades, undergoes frequent enhancements, adjustments, and repairs. With each alteration to the engine’s physical design, the test facility requires assessment to ensure it remains suitable for testing the model’s specifications.
  3. Upgrade planning – Testing facilities require significant capital investment, requiring durable equipment capable of modification. Built to last for decades, these facilities often need adaptations to accommodate new engine designs as engines evolve to become more complex and efficient. While legacy test cells may struggle to deliver results at the same quality level as technology advances, they rarely become obsolete overnight. Planning for upgrades extends the lifespan of these facilities.

In the aerospace industry, maintaining cutting-edge facilities and engine test cells is unparalleled, presenting a unique challenge compared to other industries. Aerospace companies have prioritized future-proofing and continuous upgrades as cornerstones of their facility planning endeavors. Employing a blend of art and science is essential to crafting and sustaining facilities capable of meeting the demands of an ever-evolving future.

Read the full article here.