Research: Veronica Fornlöf wants to improve the life expectancy of aircraft engines
It was when Veronica Fornlöf began working in the aircraft industry in 2011 that she became interested in aircrafts. It was also in a working capacity that she happened to visit the Air Force Museum in Linköping, the town where she carried out her university studies for the best part of the 2000s. Today the main focus is on the JAS Gripen engine and this particular engine also forms the basis of her research. On 30th May she defended her licentiate thesis at the University of Skövde.
Veronica Fornlöf, who grew up in Österfärnebo close to Sandviken, is an Industrial PhD student. She is employed by GKN Aerospace Sweden, previously Volvo Aero, in Trollhättan who also finance her research at the University of Skövde.
– Not everyone decides to go for a Licentiate Degree, but for me it has always been part of the plan from the very beginning. It is proof that you have come half way to a PhD.
Her licentiate thesis has the title “Improved aircraft engine maintenance optimization using classification of on-condition parts” which she has been requested to translate to ”Förbättrade livslängdsuppskattningar för “on-condition”-komponenter i flygmotorer.”
– Simply put, it deals with predicting, in a better way, how long parts of an aircraft engine will last. You can compare it to when you switch to summer tires on your car. Then you will check the tires and estimate whether they will be functional the whole season or whether they will be illegal by July. By making the right decision at that moment you will avoid having to take the car to the mechanics an extra time. It is exactly the same with the parts of an aircraft engine. To maintain an aircraft engine amounts to approximately 10-20% of the total cost of keeping an aircraft in service. We want to improve maintenance planning by means of improving our ability to estimate how long the components are serviceable.
Just like a car, an aircraft engine is serviced according to a service plan. Veronica’s research thus boils down to avoiding that engine parts break before the next scheduled service. If it is possible to accurately estimate the life expectancy of these parts it may be better to change them ahead of time rather than to wait. Her research object is the RM12 engine of the international version of the Swedish fighter jet JAS 39 C/D Gripen which is manufactured at GKN in Trollhättan. But there are high hopes that the results will be applicable to other aircraft engines as well in the long run.
– Up until now I have tried to define the existing problems connected to trying to estimate the life expectancy of the different parts of the engine as well as the technical methods that are required to solve this. It is a matter of determining an accurate life expectancy of each component, which I hope will be possible.
In Veronica’s case, being an Industrial PhD student entails spending 80% of her time on research, the remaining 20% she spends on working for the company. This means that she is not required to do any teaching and can instead focus on connecting her research results with the company directly. During the past two years she has also combined work and research with being a parent of young children.
– It has worked well for me. I feel that I concentrate better on my work related tasks, it is a question of taking advantage of the time I have in the most efficient way possible.
At Linköping University she studied mechanical engineering with a focus on logistics and operations management. The fact that she ended up conducting her research at the University of Skövde was pure chance.
– It was sheer coincidence. GKN learned that a research school, formerly ApplyIT (nowadays IPSI), was about to be started at the University of Skövde and I was then offered the opportunity of undertaking my research studies there.
Since then it has, as she puts it, moved along at a steady pace. After two and a half years of research and three approved research articles the aim is to defend her doctoral thesis in 2018. But first she had to report on the progress of her work on the 30th of May by presenting her licentiate thesis.