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JUST THE RIGHT BALANCE

Willi Burkert
Director of Sales & Marketing
Bertram Dittmar
Director of Product Development

Subsequent appearance:
"Just The Right Balance," Aircraft Technology Engineering & Maintenance '96- '97 Yearbook
Balancing engines to a low level of tolerance can only be achieved on balancing equipment which can pass a
stringent Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test. The SAE has issued various Aerospace Recommended
Practices (ARPs) which relate to different types of equipment: ARP 4050 pertains to vertical balancing
equipment, ARP 4048 to horizontal balancing equipment and ARP 1134 covers moment weighing equipment.
Why moment weighing?
In order to reduce the initial unbalances of the bladed rotor, the unbalance of the blades must be taken into
consideration. For some rotors with small blades - for example, compressor rotors - the blades are only mass
weighed and then distributed according to their weight. In rotors with larger blades - for example, fan motors -
the blades represent a significant portion of the total weight, so the location of the center of gravity of the blades
is very important. Even though blades may have the same physical size, the location of the center of gravity can
be significantly different. Moment weighing systems are used to determine the moment of each blade relative to
the rotational axis of the jet engine. The distribution of the blades can be carried out manually by placing one
light and one heavy blade next to each other. However, today computer programs are often used in a variety of
ways to help minimize the initial unbalance of the rotors and keep the total weight of the rotors to a minimum.
In the past it was sufficient to measure the moment in one axis - that is the radial moment was enough.
However, with the advent of wide- chord blades this was no longer sufficient. It is now common to measure
moments of large engine fan blades in three axes and make the distribution accordingly. Measurements for two
axes are obtained simultaneously and the third axis is obtained by swiveling the fan blade by 90.
Vertical balancing machines
Jet engine rotors are flexible. Usually, flexible rotors have to be balanced on high- speed balancing machines.
Jet engines, however, can be balanced at low speeds, using a process where all individual rotating components
are balanced prior to assembly. Then the engine modules (low- pressure turbine and compressor, high- pressure
turbine and compressor, and fan) are balanced as components and are subsequently assembled to become the
completed jet engine. Individual discs, seals, etc. are normally balanced on vertical single- plane balancing
machines. Vertical machines are preferred because of the convenient way in which they permit loading and
unloading the parts. To ensure operator safety and to eliminate windage losses, all vertical balancing machines
are equipped with a safety shroud. Safety shrouds are governed by ISO standard 7475. Several categories are
defined in the specification from Class O (no protection) to class D (burst- proof). Safety shrouds supplied with
Schenck Trebel balancing machines are typically Class C shrouds - these are fragment- protecting shrouds.
Tooling is also required in order to adapt the various rotors to the balancing machines.
Tooling is designed with an eye towards maximizing efficiency and satisfying the balancing tolerances. The
balancing machine and tooling must be well integrated and should be procured from one manufacturer in order
to maximize efficiency and achieve the highest possible balancing accuracy.
Horizontal balancing machines
Once the individual stages are balanced - usually on vertical machines - the stages are assembled on the shaft
and balanced as subassemblies. For this purpose various sizes of horizontal balancing machines are available.
These machines range from an HL2 for a PT6, PW100, Allison, AlliedSignal, etc. up to the latest HL6 which is
used by the manufacturers of PW4000 growth, Trent and GE90 engines - the largest engines in use today.
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Balancing machines have to deliver sufficient horsepower to accelerate the rotors to their desired balancing
speeds. The determining factor is usually the bladed fan; if the bladed fan is to be balanced, a shroud should be
provided to reduce windage losses.
Balancing machines can be supplied with either a direct drive (sometimes referred to as an end drive) or a belt
drive. In the past, engines such as the JT9D (all versions) were typically balanced on machines with belt drives,
whereas RB211s and CF6s were typically balanced on balancing machines equipped with end drives.
The latest state- of- the- art balancing practices by all manufacturers of large engines incorporate end drives
because of the rotors' increased power requirements. Depending on the type of jet engine module, either open
rollers or dedicated tooling fixtures can be used to accommodate the rotors during the balancing process in the
balancing machine. When employing open roller bearings, the shaft journals are placed directly - or using
sleeves - on the rollers of the balancing machines. Any axial thrust of the rotors will, of course, be absorbed by
the end drive.
Mating of the various modules may cause additional unbalances because of mechanical runout. These
unbalances may cause the jet engine to vibrate; these vibrations will be detected during the engine's final test in
the test cell. Trim balancing may be performed, if necessary.
Rebalancing after overhaul
Engine overhaul, or repair, of a rotating engine part necessitates rebalancing of the respective stage or module.
Balancing during overhaul requires the same machines and tooling, and the same balancing accuracy, as when
balancing as a manufacturing process.
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