Engineers from the Engineering Design Center (EDC) in Warsaw, Poland, are bringing top-notch technology contributions to the development of the new GE Catalyst engine.

Catalyst, the first all-European built turboprop by GE, is scheduled to fly for the first time in 2020. It currently has 98 patented technologies that improve performance, lower emissions and simplify flying. It features digital controls that regulate both the engine and propeller, as well as revolutionary 3D-printed parts which are lighter and stronger than conventional metal parts. These technologies help enable the engine to achieve 10 percent higher cruise power verse competing turboprops.

Creating a new engine, especially one that is as technically advanced as the GE Catalyst, is a complex process. Designing new tools and methods to produce simpler, clearer test results becomes extremely beneficial to an engine program. The EDC team sought such tools and methodology recently when focusing on the Catalyst’s High- and Low-Pressure Turbine (HPT and LPT), as well as the compressor.

The EDC team in Warsaw that developed the IR Camera technology.

One of the items engineers must take care of before the engine is ready to fly is verifying the expected life of turbine blades and vanes. Testing brand-new engines can be extremely difficult because conventional measurement techniques do not survive in the temperature environment needed to get the results. So the EDC team came up with a solution.

“Our engineers developed a whole methodology for hot gas path components cooling. To verify our design, we came up with an idea for a perfect tool: a camera box that would let us get readings from a working engine,” said Lech Parylak, EDC Turbine Testing Coordinator.

The team needed to get faster and better information in order to successfully pass the testing phase. To eliminate long test times while producing reliable temperature measurements directly from the airfoils in real-time, engineering teams from EDC designed a one-of-a-kind camera box with a cooling system to conduct an Infrared Camera test on a working engine.

An image from the IR camera capturing thermal shades on an engine blade, where hot gas is exhausted from the engine.

For nearly three years, a team of engineers at EDC worked on this camera system.

“The camera’s optical probes have been fitted with a cooling system designed right for this scope. It protects the optics from the flow path gases that are rising in an environment temperature beyond the point that can damage the optical system,” said Krzysztof Jedliński, HPT Components Cooling Sub-Section Manager.

This fireproof eye has another distinctive optical feature: it can move 360 degrees over a large range, obtaining a full picture of the environment. To get a full image, EDC engineers installed an optical probe inside the flowpaths of the tested components. Prior to testing on the engine, the team executed extensive testing with the IR Camera system components in laboratories on the EDC campus in Warsaw.

According to the EDC engineers’ follow-up report regarding the IR Camera system, “the quality of data generated was fantastic and allowed lower uncertainty in temperature measurement than any other method to date.”

Now that the IR Camera system has been validated in testing with the Catalyst engine, GE’s new tool could play a role in the development of more next-generation engines.

“We are always striving to find new ways to collect valuable data more efficiently,” said Parylak. “This tool will help us streamline testing while giving us clearer insight for hot gas path components cooling.”

The IR Camera Box installation on the engine.