GKN will build facility to develop all-composite engine fan blades

GKN Aerospace is partnering with Rolls-Royce to build the £14.8 million facility on the Isle of Wight, U.K. GKN also has won a contract to provide composite winglets for the Bombardier CSeries.

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GKN Aerospace (Redditch, U.K.) and Rolls-Royce (London, U.K.) have announced that they will build a new £14.8 million facility on the Isle of Wight (U.K.) for development of the Environmental Lightweight Fan (ELF) research program, which aims to prove advanced, high-rate production processes for a new all-composite engine fan blade that will improve aircraft engine performance and reduce emissions.

Rich Oldfield, technical director at GKN Aerospace, comments, “This new facility, based on the Isle of Wight, U.K., is a key part of our commitment to creating a global center of excellence for aero-engine components and structures within GKN Aerospace. It will ensure we, our partner and suppliers can sustain the level of development progress required to have composite engine fan blade technology ready to meet major international business opportunities — including upgrades to existing aircraft and engines as well as entirely new airframe programs. If Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace and the U.K. aerospace sector are to maintain and grow market share as these opportunities arrive, we must all move forward swiftly.”

Oldfield continues: “Furthermore, these important process developments will be transferable to the automated manufacture of many other aero-engine components and structures and will benefit other key U.K. industrial sectors such as marine, health, construction and energy.” This stage of ELF will be completed by 2012, with processes proven. At that time, GKN Aerospace will focus on production and detailed optimization of the manufacturing process.

GKN Aerospace and Rolls-Royce are being supported in this development by the South of England Economic Development Agency (SEEDA). In a matched funding exercise, SEEDA is investing £7.4 million to support the partner companies and the technology base in the South of England.

GKN Aerospace also announced that it has been selected by Bombardier Aerospace (Belfast, U.K.) to design and manufacture the winglet for the new Bombardier CSeries commercial aircraft, aimed at the 100-149-seat market. The deal is worth $100 millon (USD). This contract covers the period to 2025, with first winglet deliveries taking place in early 2011 to support aircraft entry into service in 2013.