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AEDC Aeropropulsion personnel testing software to aid in structural analysis

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks

Structural testing of new turbine engine designs can result in terabytes of data recorded from hundreds of sensors.  This data - collected during High Cycle Fatigue (HCF) characterization tests – traditionally required experts months to analyze and determine if the engine is safe to operate in an aircraft.

“That is why the same question remains – ‘How can we be more confident that we truly understand the structural limitations of this system?’” said Seth Beaman, a Naval Air Systems Command analysis engineer assigned to the Aeropropulsion Combined Test Force (CTF) of Arnold Engineering Development Complex at Arnold Air Force Base.

This lingering query recently led to discussions among personnel in the Aeropropulsion CTF of how they could better statistically correlate structural responses to other engine parameters. They hope they have found a solution.

Those in the CTF have joined forces with APEX Turbine Testing Technologies, a small business from nearby Spring Hill, Tennessee, to develop software to solve this problem. Apex built on their current software product, Apex-DX, to automate the statistical analysis of the data.  The new software merges data from multiple recording devices, identifies structural responses that are near engine limits, and assists in developing statistical correlations between those structural responses and other engine parameters.

“This capability will benefit the AEDC workforce by providing further insight into the sensitivities of components within the propulsion systems we are testing,” Beaman said.

Joseph Honea, Software Engineering Manager at APEX, led the team of software developers to automate the process based on APEX’s commercial software products.    “Our team was very excited to be a part of applying our proven technology to create an automated process that benefits our AEDC customer”, Honea said. 

The development of this software is part of a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project within the Aeropropulsion group. The SBIR program is a tool the Department of Defense utilizes to develop solutions on an accelerated schedule. As part of this program, the DOD will advertise a need or issue that is eventually awarded to a company to provide a solution. DOD personnel will then partner with this company during the development and testing phases and assess the progress and usability of the product at certain milestones in the process.

Dr. Kurt Nichol, president of APEX, was very pleased to see this project executed successfully as it represents the culmination of nearly 40 years of working in HCF testing.

“HCF testing and analysis has gone from a very labor intensive, expert-required discipline to what is now an automated process,” Nichol said. “It’s truly amazing to see how things have progressed.”

Beaman said once the software moves from the testing and development stage to implementation, it will benefit AEDC greatly.

“This capability will enable AEDC to provide statistically-based correlations between low- and high-speed data and ultimately assist us in providing better, more objective assessments of propulsion systems to the sponsoring program offices,” Beaman said.