Week 2/2020

A new way of assembling engines

MTU has created the world's first ground-based final assembly line for geared turbofan engines in Munich.
MTU has created the world's first ground-based final assembly line for geared turbofan engines in Munich.
Aviation is reducing its CO2 and noise emissions. The geared turbofan is an innovative propulsion technology that makes a significant contribution to this – it reduces kerosene consumption by more than 15 percent and noise footprint by 75 percent. The Munich-based engine manufacturer MTU Aero Engines has developed a smart final-assembly line for the assembly of geared turbofans for the Airbus A320neo, setting new standards in engine assembly.

This in-house development had become necessary because there was no final-assembly system available on the market that was suitable for MTU: most lines operate with guided ceiling-mounted systems, as do the other two GTF assembly lines operated by Pratt & Whitney in the U.S. Such systems were out of the question for MTU because they lacked the flexibility that was needed – scalability as well as flexible engine insertion and removal.

Smart in-house development – autonomous and digital

At the heart of the innovative MTU solution is a ground-based line-assembly system that uses the latest autonomous and digital technologies. The use of cranes is completely eliminated. The engine components are moved on 16 carriers, also specially developed by MTU, which are coupled together according to the progress of the work. The carriers can move in any direction and are remote controlled. The flexibility is enormous: individual engines can be inserted into or removed from the process at any time. Several engines can also be assembled simultaneously at different stages of construction.

The assembly of the engines is automated and paperless. Work plans, routing cards and assembly steps are interlinked and digitally mapped. Screens inform the employees about the individual steps and the status quo. The plant was also built in accordance with the latest ergonomic findings.

In addition, components are heated inductively and precisely where needed before they are joined, thus shortening waiting times and increasing efficiency by 60 percent. This process also uses significantly less energy than before, since it is no longer necessary to heat the complete components.

The system is constantly being improved

The assembly plant has been in operation since 2016 and is constantly being expanded. In the final expansion stage, 80 employees will be working there. So far, about 300 geared turbofans have left the plant. They are used in the Airbus A320neo and contribute to the aircraft's good fuel consumption performance. A third of all A320neo geared turbofans have been undergoing final assembly at MTU's Munich facility since 2016.

The assembly system is being consistently improved and brought up to the latest technological standard. If required, it can easily be adapted for other engine types and is also suitable for engine repair. MTU's new line-assembly system was a finalist for the Innovation Award of German Aviation in the "smart factory" category.