Newsletter | Vol 14 - October 2021

Case Study: QuesTek's Ferrium C64 & AM Process Make Army Helicopters Tougher, Lighter, and Safer

We are often asked for case studies of aerospace applications of the alloys in our databases. The following is an very interesting case study that recently appeared as a News Release by QuesTek Innovations of Evanston, Illinois. It involves both a new alloy developed by QuesTek and the growing process of Additive Manufacturing (AM). If you are a subscriber to CINDAS, you can access this particular alloy (Ferrium C64) along with the other Ferrium alloys we have in our databases (Ferium S53, C61 and M54). You can also access chapters on AlSi10Mg (AM) and Ti-6Al-4V (AM) that are written from an additive manufacturing standpoint. These two AM chapters will also give you a nice refresher on AM processes used.

The U.S. Army needed to enhance the performance and safety of its helicopters, but the steels they were currently utilizing could not fulfill this goal. The Army sought the development of new rotorcraft gear materials possessing a combination of increased bending and contact fatigue resistance, enhanced core strength with good toughness, higher temperature resistance, and excellent hardenability.

The Army's main pain point was that the lead time for manufacturing gears for testing in Science and Technology (S&T;) prototype demonstrators could sometimes take 18 months and required costly, special tooling. Thus, the Army needed a way to develop a new or improved AM process for prototyping aerospace gears.

QuesTek engineered Ferrium® C64®, a novel high-performance gear steel that provides a combination of high core-strength, toughness, surface hardenability, improved processability (cost and time reduction), and temperature resistance.

Ferrium C64 steel was originally developed under Department of Defense funding and first utilized by the Navy. In 2015, under the Future Advanced Rotorcraft Drive Systems (FARDS) program, the Army contracted with Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky (now Lockheed Martin) to develop their respective next generation gearbox technologies and achieve Future Vertical Lift performance targets.

The outcomes of Ferrium C64 applications are numerous:

  • With existing steels, the Army's rotorcraft platforms did not meet the requisite 30-minute oil-out operational duration. However, the Ferrium C64 components lasted through 85 minutes of testing without any signs of failure, successfully demonstrating that the gearbox could exceed the 30-minute loss of lubrication requirement.
  • Ferrium C64 enabled an up-to 25% increase in power density over incumbent materials.
  • Ferrium C64 enables gearbox designs to become lighter, operate at higher temperatures, and increase safety margins compared to gearboxes manufactured from traditional steels.
  • Ferrium C64 is being successfully demonstrated as the best-performing gear material available for additive manufacture of gears for aerospace, high performance racing and industrial applications for prototyping and replacement of small legacy gears.

About QuesTek Innovations LLC
QuesTek Innovations LLC is a global leader in ICME technologies and has used its proprietary Materials by Design® methodology to rapidly design and deploy a family of commercially-available Ferrium® steels being used in demanding applications. For over 20 years, QuesTek has been selected by all branches of the US government and a growing and diverse industrial client base to understand and resolve their most pressing materials challenges.

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