Until the late 1980s, no major Spanish company focused on the design and production of aeronautic engines and turbines. It was to address this deficit that SENER, in partnership with Rolls Royce, founded ITP. Within only about 15 years, the company became a top world producer of low-pressure turbines in aeronautic engines— the turbines that move the fans within the engines. The company has grown into one of the largest aerospace companies in Spain, focusing on innovations in engine design, manufacture, and repair.
"It's difficult in this market to stand out based on just one factor, " says Inaki Ulizar, ITP's director of engineering and technology. "What makes a company attractive is a combination of great technology and well-trained employees. Once we receive specifications from a customer, we can complete the entire module from scratch. "
The low-pressure turbine accounts for a great deal of weight in the engine. At ITP, current research focuses on how to reduce noise, weight, and fuel consumption. The general approach is to examine the mechanics of the product and the air flow and attempt to increase efficiency by using new materials or changing the aerodynamic shape of parts. "We can make optimizations in the design that we couldn't make even five years ago, " says Ulizar, "because computer capabilities today allow us to perform simulations overnight that give detailed information about the aerodynamics of the component. In the past, we could only do this kind of simulation to understand the physical design in physical research projects. "
ITP also does research to improve maintenance, repair, and overhaul activities at its facilities near Madrid, where the company repairs aviation engines. New techniques involve advances in welding, cleaning, and coating applications using thermal sprays. Researchers there are working in partnership with European counterparts to investigate reducing the use of metals such as cadmium, chromium, and nickel in repair work. They are also developing new coatings and improving laser welding techniques. At the milling center, researchers focus on how to reduce the thickness of the casings for large components while protecting their strength. They are also examining ways to enhance the performance of milling tools by using nanotechnology in their coatings.
ITP is one of the top companies in the sector in terms of R& D investment. "Years ago there was a value in Spain by being low-cost compared to other European countries, but today that is not the case, " says Ulizar. "So now in Spain there is an increased understanding that the only way to stay competitive is by investing in research. "