Rolls Royce Starts Building its Giant Composite Fan Blades for Next-Gen Engine

Rolls Royce

Rolls-Royce has begun manufacturing of the world’s largest composite fan blades, for its UltraFan demonstrator engine. The composite blades 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.

Rolls Royce says that 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.

Efficiency improvement comes from the composite fan blades and fan case, which reduce weight on a twin-engine aircraft by 700kg, the equivalent of seven people travelling.

The engine which is due to start ground tests in 2021 features a new core architecture which maximises fuel efficiency and lowers emissions. Advanced ceramic matrix composites provide new heat resistant components that operate more effectively in high turbine temperatures and a new geared design will maximise high-thrust.

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.

Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace

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