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Rolls-Royce starts manufacture of world’s largest fan blades

04 March 2020

Rolls-Royce has started manufacture of the world’s largest fan blades, for its UltraFan demonstrator engine that will set new standards in efficiency and sustainability.

An artist’s impression of the UltraFan demonstrator. (Image courtesy of Rolls-Royce)

As a set the composite blades have a 140in diameter, which is almost the size of a current narrowbody fuselage and are being made at the company’s technology hub in Bristol, UK. The milestone also marks the official start of production of parts for the demonstrator.

UltraFan will set new standards in efficiency and sustainability, offering a 25 percent 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”.

Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace, said: “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.”

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
• A geared design to maximise high-thrust, high-bypass ratio engine efficiency

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.

The fan blades are created through the build-up of hundreds of layers of carbon-fibre materials, pre-filled with 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.


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