Rolls-Royce has started manufacture of the world’s largest fan blades, for its UltraFan demonstrator engine.
A set of the composite blades have a 140-inch diameter, which is almost the size of a current narrow-body fuselage and are being made at the company’s technology hub in Bristol, U.K. The milestone also marks the official start of production of parts for the demonstrator.
UltraFan is expected to offer a 25% fuel reduction compared to the first generation of Trent engine and deliver the same percentage reduction in emissions. Part of that efficiency improvement comes from UltraFan’s composite fan blades and fan case, which reduce weight on a twin-engine aircraft by 700kg, the equivalent of seven people traveling “weight free”.
The fan blades are created through the build-up of hundreds of layers of carbon-fibre materials, pre-filled with state-of-the-art, toughness-enhanced, resin material. Heat and pressure are then applied, and each blade is finished with a thin titanium leading edge, which offers extreme protection against erosion, foreign objects and bird strikes.
UltraFan will start ground tests in 2021. It is expected to be available towards the end of the decade and is a scalable design from 25,000lb to 100,000lb.
UltraFan is a key element of Rolls-Royce’s sustainability strategy and is also part of the company’s IntelligentEngine vision, which brings together its products, services and digital technology.
Composite blades have already been extensively tested on an Advanced Low Pressure System development engine, including in-flight testing on the Rolls-Royce Flying Test Bed. ALPS is a partnership between Rolls-Royce, Clean Sky, Innovate UK, BEIS, ATI, ITP Aero and GKN. The portfolio of technologies being developed to enable UltraFan is supported by ATI, Innovate UK, LuFo and Clean Sky 2.
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