Fleet Readiness Center Southwest’s (FRCSW) LM2500 engine program will get a bump in production thanks to the recent installation of a new vacuum furnace in Building 379.
The LM2500 turbine is used by the Navy to power Spruance and Kidd-class destroyers, Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
The $1.9 million furnace will be used to “stress test” LM2500 parts. The unit can heat up to 2,800 degrees. After heating and the engine’s metallic components contract, technicians can look for any cracks or flaws and conduct further testing as needed.
It will not be used for the heat treating or plating of LM2500 parts.
Manufactured by the Seco/Warwick Group, the furnace was purchased via FRCSW’s Capital Investment Program (CIP) which invests in new technologies and equipment to improve production efficiencies.
“The furnace was custom made for our use and took almost a year to manufacture,” noted (CIP) project manager Martha Hoffman. “The equipment arrived May 15, and the sign off (acceptance) was July 2.”
The furnace chamber may accommodate components up to 60 inches in diameter and height. It is operated through a Program Logic Control (PLC) interface system that will log and archive events through date, time and duration. The console will also notify the operator if the unit is faulting and location of the fault.
“The PLC is user-friendly. The operator will input the amount of time and temperature for the heating process and if or when the part needs to be turned,” Hoffman said. “The computer will retain that information. So when another part comes in for treatment, the operator will just enter that part number or identifier and will be ready to go. This minimizes the room for error.”
The furnace operates under a chill water and closed-looped system.
“We have a secondary tank for the water and one for the argon (cooling). It’s all regulated by the PLC and the pump so the pressure is the same every time the furnace is used,” Hoffman said.
In addition to maintaining consistent pressure, other safety features include an automatic shut down if the unit exceeds a set temperature or if the argon level falls below a set threshold or its flow is interrupted, and railings and walkways with harnesses for fall protection.
In June, approximately 20 FRCSW personnel completed a 48-hour training session conducted by the manufacturer.
The new unit replaces a model that was more than 50-years old with a four-year history of sporadic operation. Difficulty in maintenance and increasingly obsolete replacement parts often resulted in a 60-80 percent down time, causing some LM2500 work to be contracted out.
Hoffman said that the new unit will save the command about six months in turn-around time per part vice contracted workload, and that 12-15 components will be tested weekly.
FRCSW is scheduled to overhaul about 15 LM2500 engines annually.