A feedback position-control system has been developed for maintaining the concentricity of a turbofan with respect to a nacelle during acoustic and flow tests in a wind tunnel. The system is needed for the following reasons:

Figure 1. RAN System in Test Configuration is shown in (a), and (b) shows the installation of positioning table behind tunnel wall.
  • Thermal and thrust loads can displace the fan relative to the nacelle;
  • In the particular test apparatus (see Figure 1), denoted as a rotor-only nacelle (RAN), the struts, vanes, and other stator components of a turbofan engine that ordinarily maintain the required concentricity in the face of thermal and thrust loads are not present; and
  • The struts and stator components are not present because it is necessary to provide a flow path that is acoustically "clean" in the sense that the measured noise can be attributed to the fan alone.

The system is depicted schematically in Figure 2. The nacelle is supported by two struts attached to a two-axis traverse table located outside the wind-tunnel wall. Two servomotors acting through 100:1 gearboxes drive the table along the Y and Z axes, which are perpendicular to the axis of rotation. The Y and Z components of the deviation from concentricity are measured by four laser displacement sensors mounted on the nacelle and aimed at reflective targets on the center body, which is part of the fan assembly.

Figure 2. This Control System continually adjusts the Z and Y position of the nacelle to minimize eccentricity with respect to the center body.

The outputs of the laser displacement sensors are digitized and processed through a personal computer programmed with control software. The control output of the computer commands the servomotors to move the table as needed to restore concentricity. Numerous software and hardware travel limits and alarms are provided to maximize safety. A highly ablative rub strip in the nacelle minimizes the probability of damage in the event that a deviation from concentricity exceeds the radial clearance [<0.004 in. (<0.1 mm)] between the inner surface of the nacelle and the tips of the fan blades.

To be able to prevent an excursion in excess of the tip clearance, the system must be accurate enough to control X and Y displacements to within 0.001 in. (≈0.025 mm). One characteristic essential to such accuracy is sufficient rigidity in the mechanical components of the system to prevent excitation of vibrations in the strut/nacelle subsystem. The need for such a high degree of accuracy prompted a comprehensive analysis of sources of measurement and control errors, followed by rigorous design efforts to minimize these errors. As a result, the design of the system incorporates numerous improvements in hardware, software, and operational procedures.

This work was done by Cameron C. Cunningham, William K. Thompson, Christopher E. Hughes, and Tony D. Shook ofGlenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

NASA Glenn Research Center
Commercial Technology Office
Attn: Steve Fedor
Mail Stop 4-8
21000 Brookpark Road
Ohio 44135

Refer to LEW-17185.