Advanced Technology for Aeronautical Transmissions

The PISA GEARS 2018 Workshop was an important opportunity for University and Industry to meet and an example of synergy between different players. Organized by AM Testing and by the University of Pisa, patronized by PISA’s Chamber of Commerce and ASSIOT, this seminar outlined the state of the art in the field of aeronautical transmissions and the interesting ongoing projects.

di Silvia Crespi

“Advanced Technologies for Gear Applications” was the title of PISA GEARS 2018, the Workshop organized on September 21st at the University of Pisa: a successful event, deriving from the synergy between AM Testing, Avio Aero and the university’s Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering (DICI), patronised by Pisa’s Chamber of Commerce and ASSIOT. During the seminar the state of the art in the field of motion and power transmission systems, a domain where technology is highly advanced and continuously evolving, with speeches focused on the main technical and scientific results obtained by the main players operating in this segment.

The synergy industry/university led to important results
The welcome speech by Professor Guiggiani, from the DICI department of the University of Pisa, was followed by the reports of lecturers who illustrated the activities of this department, who witnessed the positive moment which engineering is going through in our country. “Mechanical engineering – Professor Landi began – still represents an important attraction for young persons. This was shown by a poll carried out during the University’s Open Day and by the number of students who registered for this Faculty”. “DICI – Professor Manfredi underlined – is a multidisciplinary department characterised by a multi-scale approach and by a cooperation with the industrial world which leads to the promotion of spin-offs. A successful case in point is represented by the birth of AM Testing”. Even Professor Ciulli highlighted the importance of research and of a synergy between the academic and industrial worlds: the development of DICI’s laboratories is an example. The test benches installed in these labs are examples of excellence stemming from this cooperation, which stretches even beyond the European boundaries. Even the synergy between small and large industries, however, is very important in our country in terms of the transfer of knowledge.

The transmission system industry: an Italian excellence
Fabrizio Cattaneo explained the activity of ASSIOT, the Association which groups the manufacturers of power transmission components, underlining the importance of this segment in the Italian industrial scenario with a share of 25% of the overall revenues of the capital equipment industry, superior to that of the machine tools segment, in site of the latter’s greater visibility. This sector has an intrinsic competitiveness on account of the final destination of the products, as the excellent trend of exports goes to show. “The segment which ASSIOT represents – Cattaneo stated – is a sector which is growing, and not just on account of the Government’s incentive policy. The commercial balance shows a relevant surplus on all destination countries. This industrial segment is healthy both in terms of size and of productivity”. Cattaneo also summarised the advantages deriving from joining the association, with networking being first and foremost. The merger project which involves ASSIOT e ASSOFLUID, the Association which groups under one heading the Fluid Power industries, is also centred on networking.

The evolution of transmissions in the aeronautics domain
The technical session, which focused on the evolution of transmissions in the aeronautical segment, was opened by Professor Manfredi (DICI) who illustrated the current reference context and the steps which led to the Workshop. Manfredi recalled the history of the Department of aeronautical engineering, from the beginning to the present day, from cooperation with FIAT AVIO right up to the idea of generating the spin-off, AM Testing.
Today AVIO AERO, General Electric group, has 110 years of history in Italy and 4200 employees operating in the 8 sites and 6 labs and Research centres. Mr. Tortarolo, who is responsible for the Research programs and the partnership with Universities, presented the activity of his company, which specializes in the field of mechanical transmissions for aeronautical applications, characterised by a great ebullience. The long-standing partnership with the University of Pisa and the one with AM Testing is essential in terms of technological innovation. Mr. Tortarolo also mentioned the ongoing trends in the industry, which range from the reduction of components, to Hybrid Electric aircraft, unconventional engines,the use of additive technology and so on.
Mr. Andrea Piazza and Mr. Frezet went into greater detail regarding the increasing demands of the aeronautical sector: safety first and foremost, but also efficiency, high speed, lightweighting and size reduction.
Such requisites may be satisfied by developing increasingly advanced materials in terms of strength and resistance to damages; by using advanced super-finishing technologies, improved heat treatments and special bearings as well as advanced oil supply and recovery systems. Mr. Manconi, AM Testing, illustrated the experimental approach and the research activity in the field of aeronautical transmissions carried out by the company, which this year celebrates the tenth anniversary of its foundation. AM Testing, which is made up by 18 persons, takes care of all testing activities. Mr. Manconi described in detail the main instances of damages to the gears and introduced the special test benches created in partnership with AVIO AERO, examples of excellence stemming from the synergy of the two concerns.

Important projects in the aeronautical are under way
A definitely important project is the power recirculation test bench for an innovative Power Gear box, an equipment, developed within the framework of the GeT FuTuRe (Clean Sky 1) European project, for which the Consortium made up by the University of Pisa, AM Testing and Catarsi Ing. Piero & C obtained an important funding. Completion of the programmed experimental activities is scheduled for 2019.

Another important project which involves
AVIO AERO is the Racer (Airbus), presented by Ms. Ida Bartilotta (AM Testing) and by Mr. Demarin (AVIO AERO). Financed by the EU, the the project is a technological demonstration of a high-speed helicopter, and is aimed at showing the mission capabilities, that is, the actual performances which may be reached during the flight by a prototype of the helicopter itself.
This is a key project in the strategy of AVIO AERO, involved in all phases of the production of the gearboxes. In consideration of the complexity of the activities (AVIO AERO will produce all the gearboxes for the flight tests, each formed by over 50 critical components and over 500 part numbers, a team was purposely designed: the PST (Project Support Team), made up of AM Testing personnel.
Ida Bartilotta, Project Manager of the PST, mentioned a double connection, because NTI Engineering, entrusted with the design of a test system for the power gearboxes of the side propellers of the Racer is in turn a spin-off of AM Testing. The afternoon was taken up by visits to the DICI and AM Testing labs. In the first lab, the TP JB test bench (for dynamic characterization tests of large Tilting Pad Journal Bearings) and the IDS test bench (for tests on power gearboxes for the aeronautical news, Integral Drive System) are installed, while at the AM Testing headquarters it was possible to see the test bench for full-scale differentials and the STBF testing room (Single Tooth Bending Fatigue).