Turbomeca triumphant at Safran Innovation Awards 2016

The annual Innovation Awards provides an opportunity for Safran to reward the most inventive employee projects in the fields of aerospace, defense and security. The 2016 Grand Prize was awarded to the Turbomeca (Safran) team for its work on designing a gyratory combustion chamber. Nicolas Savary, expert engineer in combustion, and Claude Bérat, research and design department manager, spoke to us about this revolutionary system.

Could you tell us about your project, that was triumphant at the Safran Innovation Awards 2016?

Our team won the Grand Prize and Product, Technology and Patent Innovation Prize for developing a gyratory combustion chamber - a real disruptive technology. We redesigned the entire system so that the chamber weighs half as much and costs half as much as existing technologies. The system also makes for straightforward chamber manufacturing and maintenance. Gyratory combustion chambers are already being used by aircraft APUs but, up until now, nobody had considered adapting the system to helicopter turbo engines!

Pierre Fabre, Director of R&T and Innovation for Safran, then presented Product, Technology and Patent Innovation Prize to a Safran Helicopter Engines team (Safran) for the spinning flame combustor designed for use in the new Arrano engine, which is scheduled to enter service in 2017.

What makes your project novel, and perhaps even revolutionary?

The combustion chamber is a key part of an engine since it is where the mixture of fuel and air takes place. The combustion chamber wall features lots of small holes. It is crucial to put these holes in the right place, and to make sure they are the right size too, to improve engine performance. This work is the culmination of 35 years of research... In 2008, when Turbomeca (Safran) was launching a demonstrator, we seized the opportunity to incorporate this innovation into our engines. We harnessed our know-how, especially for the combustion testing, and called on our partners' world-class expertise, such as the CERFACS, to carry out high-performance calculations. Our 3D printers were used to manufacture the parts where conventional processes fell short. We are the first engine manufacturers to put 3D-printed injectors in the skies!

 

Lastly, what was the key to project's success?

Without a shadow of a doubt it was the team's unwavering commitment and enthusiasm. This invention involved around 15 people. We also benefited from optimum conditions insofar as the design, manufacturing and testing were able to take place 'under one roof' at the Turbomeca site in Bordes. Such a concentration of resources advanced the innovation cycle.

 

*European Centre for Research and Advanced Training in Scientific Computation

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Innovation, a strategic driver for Safran

In 2015, the budget allocated by Safran to R&D amounted to €2 billion, i.e. 12% of revenue. The last INPI ranking saw the Group take second place in terms of the number of patents filed in France, where almost one in five employees work in R&D. Set up in 2005 to promote the innovations of its employees, partners and suppliers, the Safran Innovation Awards illustrate the strategic reach of innovation in all of the Group's companies. The jury, which is made up of member of the executive committee, awarded the 2016 Grand Prize to Turbomeca. The Field Innovation Prize was once again awarded to Hispano-Suiza (Safran) in partnership with Disco-Lab for their project centered on an ecological degreaser.

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