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I’m your biggest fan: Rolls-Royce starts building world’s largest fan blades

Professional Engineering

The UltraFan engine will be almost as wide as some narrow-body fuselages (Credit: Rolls-Royce)
The UltraFan engine will be almost as wide as some narrow-body fuselages (Credit: Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce has started manufacturing the world’s largest fan blades for its UltraFan demonstrator engine.

The composite blades have a diameter of 3.56m, almost the size of a current narrow-body fuselage. They are being built in Bristol.

The British company said the UltraFan could “set new standards in efficiency and sustainability”. It will reportedly cut fuel consumption and emissions by 25% compared to the first generation of Trent engine, which first entered service 25 years ago.

Part of the efficiency improvement comes from the composite fan blades and fan case, which could reduce weight on a twin-engine aircraft by 700kg – the equivalent of seven people and luggage.

The blades are made of hundreds of layers of carbon fibre, prefilled with state-of-the-art, toughness-enhanced resin. Heat and pressure are then applied, and each blade is finished with a thin titanium leading edge, which reportedly offers “extreme protection” against erosion, foreign objects and bird strikes.

“It’s exciting to enter the 2020s with the start of production of the demonstrator engine,” said Chris Cholerton, president of civil aerospace at Rolls-Royce. “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.”

The engine will start ground tests in 2021. Rolls-Royce said it will be available “towards the end of this decade”.

The scalable design could offer thrust levels from 25,000lb all the way up to 100,000lb. The engine has a geared design to maximise high-thrust, high-bypass ratio engine efficiency. It uses advanced ceramic matrix composites for heat-resistant components that operate more effectively in high temperatures.

Development of UltraFan technology is supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute, Innovate UK, LuFo and Clean Sky 2.


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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. 

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