Full steam ahead!
First automated steam cleaning system for engine heat exchangers in the world goes into operation
Lufthansa Technik has reached another milestone on its way to Green MRO: Since July 2018, engine heat exchangers are washed using the first automated steam cleaning method in the world – entirely without chemicals. Both the method and the system itself were specially developed by Lufthansa Technik. In addition, this is the first newly developed cleaning system to go into operation within the scope of Lufthansa Technik's Digital Shop Floor.
Previously, the heat exchangers were washed manually during engine overhauls using chemical cleaning agents. Not only was this cumbersome and time-consuming; it also created high costs for the disposal of the cleaning agents. Particularly dirty heat exchangers often had to be scrapped and replaced with new ones.
Heat exchangers are located at various points in the engine. The heat from the oil systems, for example, can thus be transferred to the surrounding air.
The new method has already been classified as patentable by the German Patent Office. It cleans entirely without chemical cleaning additives, using only hot steam. The result is astonishing: Even extremely dirty heat exchangers can be cleaned effortlessly thanks to the system's high cleaning performance. After being cleaned, they are as good as new and have regained their original performance levels. This saves resources and greatly protects the environment. The only thing that needs to be disposed of is the collected dirty water.
The cleaning system is capable of cleaning all heat exchangers used in common engine types: It can be adjusted to suit both the level of contamination and every size of heat exchanger from 0.2–2.0 meters. The cleaning process itself is fully automated. A heat exchanger can now be completely cleaned in about an hour – instead of the average 16 hours it took previously. And by linking the system to the Digital Shop Floor, engineers are able to determine from their workstations when the cleaning process is complete and the heat exchanger can be reinserted in the engine.
This new system not only allows Lufthansa Technik to save time, costs, material and resources; it also underscores the company's innovative power and marks another step on the way to completely digitally networked maintenance.