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Nikkiso, Airbus partner for UltraFan demonstrator project

The project aims to provide nacelle components for the engine UltraFan demonstrator. Nikkiso’s role is to reduce manufacturing costs by a new out-of-autoclave curing method. 
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Airbus Ultrafan using composite fan blades and fan cases

Photo Credit: Nikkiso

Nikkiso (Tokyo, Japan), a pump and pumping equipment manufacturer for the aerospace and medical industries, reported on Sept. 2 that it was selected as a joint development partner by Airbus (Toulouse, France) for the company’s “Propulsion of Tomorrow” project, which aims to provide nacelle components for the next-generation engine UltraFan demonstrator. More specifically, Nikkiso’s role in joint developing the outer ring, a component of the nacelle, is to reduce manufacturing costs by a new out-of-autoclave (OOA) curing method. 

In short, UltraFan is Rolls-Royce’s next-generation engine applicable for both narrow-body and wide-body aircrafts (single-aisle and twin-aisle aircrafts). Significantly reducing weight using composite fan blades and fan cases, it is reported that a large UltraFan will be 25% more efficient compared to Rolls-Royce's first Trent engine which came into service 25 years ago. Further, the demonstrator is said to enable lower fuel consumption and noise reduction.

The novel curing method Nikkiso has been developing is said to enable efficient resin curing in a shorter period of time, reducing the cure cycle time by approximately 40% and improving operating efficiency by approximately 20%. Additionally, the company’s development of fast curing resins shorten production time even further. According to Nikkiso, the cure time of the resin after pressurization is 80% faster than conventional resin, and along with the new curing method, shortens the overall manufacturing time. 

 

The company notes that, as Nikkiso Aerospace has recently reorganized  its division to have better focus on R&D activities, the project will provide an opportunity to demonstrate its R&D capability, and lead to possible enhancement for future activities.

Nikkiso also points to its many past successes, including the development and delivery of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) Cascades (thrust reverser parts) to Collins Aerospace Systems (previously Rohr; Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S.) for the engine nacelles installed in the Airbus A300 in 1984. The composite Cascades were then used in a series of new aircrafts, says Nikkiso, that were developed and installed in other programs, and are now chosen for all of Airbus's commercial aircraft. In addition to the Cascades, Nikkiso also manufactures components for wing, nacelle and engine for the A320, A330 and A350.

The "outer ring" is the company's first direct joint development and delivery to Airbus, and is an important milestone to further develop its relationship with Airbus in the future.

A prototype of the outer ring is expected to be delivered to Airbus by the first quarter of 2021 and will be used for ground tests in 2021 and flight tests thereafter in preparation for future production application.

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