Rolls-Royce to Manufacture World's Largest Fan Blades

Rolls-Royce to Manufacture World’s Largest Fan Blades

February 11, 2020

Rolls-Royce says it will manufacture the world’s largest fan blades made of composite material for the next-gen ultrafan demonstrator at the 2020 Singapore Airshow.

Rolls-Royce says the fan blades will be used for its UltraFan demonstrator engine and hopes it will set new standards in efficiency and sustainability.

The composite blades will have a 140-inch diameter, which is almost the size of a current narrowbody 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.

Rolls-Royce President Civil Aerospace Chris Cholerton claims the UltraFan will set new standards in efficiency and sustainability, offering a 25 per cent 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 travelling “weight-free”.

“This is the decade of UltraFan and it’s exciting to enter the 2020s with the start of production of the demonstrator engine. We have got all the building blocks in place, the design, the technologies, a brand-new testbed, and now we are actually seeing the engine come together,” says Cholerton.

UltraFan, which will start ground tests in 2021 and be available towards the end of this decade, is a scalable design from 25,000lb all the way up to 100,000lb. It also features: a new engine core architecture – to deliver maximum fuel burn efficiency and low emissions; advanced ceramic matrix composites – heat resistant components that operate more effectively in high turbine temperatures; and a geared design to maximise high-thrust, high-bypass ratio engine efficiency.

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.

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.

Cholerton says UltraFan is a key element of Rolls-Royce’s sustainability strategy, which involves continual research to improve gas turbine performance as well as pioneering electrification and working with industrial partners to accelerate the incorporation of Sustainable Aviation Fuels. It is also part of the Rolls-Royce IntelligentEngine vision, which brings together its products, services and digital technology.

On the subject of intelligent engines, Cholerton also says this month marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of when the first Trent engine powered the first Airbus A330 as it completed its delivery flight to Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong. A decade ago, 1,500 Trents were in service. By 2020, it is just over 4,000 and in the next decade, Rolls Royce claims it will be around 7,500.

“I want to thank all of our customers and all of our partners who have taken the power of Trent engines and used it to support a global aviation network. That network has offered passengers the opportunity to have incredible, life-enhancing journeys. We’ve had challenges along the way, and still do, and we are absolutely committed to dealing with any issues to ensure that the Trent family remains an outstanding product. The Trent has been built on our relentless desire to be pioneers – to make our engines increasingly efficient, and by doing so find new ways to make flight ever more sustainable. That spirit continues in our next-generation programmes, such as the UltraFan engine demonstrator and our electrification projects,” says Cholerton.

Cholerton says there will be an ever-greater demand for engine maintenance services as the fleet grows and says Rolls-Royce is responding to this demand by further expanding its global service network.

Rolls-Royce has set up a network of Customer Service Centres in Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, Europe and China. It also claims to be investing in a new testbed to further improve engine throughput. The 7,500 sq. m Testbed 80 in Derby, UK – allegedly the largest testbed of its type in the world – will start running its first Trent engines later this year.

By 2021, Cholerton says the testbed will play a vital role beyond Trent. Its UltraFan engine demonstrator will start ground tests on the bed, as part of a development programme that will result in service availability towards the end of this decade and may offer a 25 per cent improvement in fuel consumption compared to the very first Trent engine.

(Ed. Rolls-Royce claims it has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces, 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers. Its annual underlying revenue was £15 billion in 2018, around half of which came from the provision of aftermarket services. Featured image provided courtesy of Rolls-Royce.)


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