Rolls-Royce to conduct composites research at UK hub

Commercial aeroengine maker Rolls-Royce will establish a composites research center in Bristol, UK, to develop next-generation carbon fiber composite fan blades and fan cases.

Related Topics:

Rolls­-Royce (London, UK) announced on March 18 that Bristol, UK, will be the location of a center of advanced commercial jet engine fan system composite technology development, creating a hub of composite knowledge in the UK and securing 120 jobs in the city by the end of 2019. The company says the advanced manufacturing facility will be at the forefront of developing next-generation fan blades and fan cases, made with carbon fiber composites, for Rolls-­Royce’s future aero­engines.

The Rolls­-Royce CTi (carbon/titanium) blades are a key feature of the new Advance engine design, unveiled last year, which will offer at least 20% less fuel burn and CO2 emissions than the first generation of the Trent aero­engine. The blades and associated composite engine casings will form part of the new CTi fan system that could reduce weight by up to 680 kg per aircraft — the equivalent of carrying seven more passengers and their luggage.

The pre­production facility will be developed within an existing building alongside Rolls­Royce’s new facility for carbon ­fiber electrical harness rafts, currently being constructed on the Bristol site. Both facilities will benefit from manufacturing techniques being developed in partnership with the National Composites Centre in Bristol, and research being conducted at the Rolls­-Royce University Technology Centre at the University of Bristol. Rolls­-Royce’s existing CTi manufacturing technology capability, along with around 40 current employees, will be transferred from its composites location on the Isle of Wight during 2017, meaning a potential additional 80 roles could be created in Bristol over the next four years. The UK government provided £7.4m funding support to support the establishment of the pre­production facility and equipment at the Isle of Wight facility and these will be further developed at the new pre­-production Rolls­-Royce facility in Bristol.

Tony Wood, Rolls-­Royce president – Aerospace, says, “This state-­of-­the-­art facility will give us the opportunity to further develop our world­-leading composite technology and manufacturing techniques for our next generation of engine design. These high­-technology lightweight components have the potential to significantly improve the fuel consumption and emissions of future aircraft through our new Rolls­-Royce Advance and UltraFan demonstrators.

Rolls-­Royce has been involved in developing carbon­ fiber technologies for several decades and already uses the material for a number of parts within its aeroengines. New automated methods have been developed specifically for producing composite fan blades and fan casings. A set of the CTi fan blades, incorporated into a Trent 1000 donor engine, successfully completed a full flight test program on a Rolls­Royce 747 flying test bed at Tucson, AZ, US in December 2014. A testing program of the complete fan set continues to take place throughout 2015.

The CTi blade is created by laying up and curing a carbon fiber/epoxy prepreg using automated fiber placement technology. The molded blade is machined and coated before a titanium sheath is bonded to the front edge. The finished component is inspected and measured using ultrasound and subjected to mechanical testing.

Editor Pick

Carbon Fiber conference agenda nears completion

The 2017 Carbon Fiber conference, Nov. 28-30 in Charleston, SC, US, includes a tour of the Boeing South Carolina plant, a panel on carbon fiber recycling and a pre-conference seminar on carbon fiber in transportation and energy applications.