Rolls-Royce to create composite technology hub in Bristol
Press release issued: 1 April 2015
Rolls-Royce has announced that Bristol will be the location for a centre of advanced fan system composite technology development, creating a hub of composite knowledge in the UK. The hub will benefit from manufacturing techniques being developed in partnership with the National Composites Centre (NCC), part of the University of Bristol.
It will also be boosted by research being conducted at the University's Rolls-Royce Composites University Technology Centre to provide validated analysis methods for the design and manufacture of composites components.
The advanced manufacturing facility will be at the forefront of developing the next generation of fan blades and fan cases, made of carbon-fibre composite materials, for Rolls-Royce’s future aero-engines.
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 per cent less fuel burn and CO2 emissions than the first generation of the Trent aero-engine. The blades and associated composite engine casings will form part of the new CTi fan system that could reduce weight by up to 1,500 lb per aircraft, the equivalent of carrying seven more passengers and their luggage.
The processes used in their CTi manufacturing technology capability on the Isle of Wight composites facility were developed within Rolls-Royce and through work carried out at the NCC, a world-leading research and technology hub owned by the University of Bristol. The development work on the Rolls-Royce CTi (carbon/titanium) blade manufacturing technology has led to their decision to locate the centre for advanced fan system composite technology development in Bristol.
The pre-production facility in Bristol will be developed within an existing building alongside Rolls-Royce’s new facility for carbon-fibre electrical harness rafts.
Tony Wood, President – Aerospace at Rolls-Royce, said: “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.
“This is the latest example of Rolls-Royce’s commitment to investing in innovative technology and world-class facilities to improve performance and drive profitable growth for our business.”
Professor Michael Wisnom, Director of the Rolls-Royce Composites University Technology Centre at the University of Bristol said: “We are delighted that Rolls-Royce has decided to locate this new hub at Filton which will facilitate close interaction with both the UTC and the NCC, ensuring that Bristol is at the centre of development of composite components for future engines.”
Carbon-fibre composites are predominantly used in the aerospace industry to enable significant reduction in weight, leading to lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions. Rolls-Royce has been involved in developing carbon-fibre technologies for several decades and already uses the material for a number of parts within its aero engines. Innovative automated methods have been developed specifically for producing composite fan blades and fan casings.
The UTC and NCC will continue to provide technology development for Rolls-Royce and look forward to further collaboration opportunities.
Rolls-Royce has been involved in developing carbon-fibre technologies for several decades and already uses the material for a number of parts within its aero engines. Innovative automated methods have been developed specifically for producing composite fan blades and fan casings.
Facts on composites and CTi:
- Composite materials are made up from at least two different types of materials which, when combined, create a new material that offers different physical properties and particular advantages not available from the individual materials on their own;
- The new CTi blade is created by laying strips of carbon fibre, pre-impregnated with an epoxy resin, into a mould using a precision controlled robot. This is then cured in an autoclave by applying temperature and pressure (a bit like a very advanced pressure cooker). The moulded blade is precision 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 very rigorous mechanical testing;
- The fan in a gas turbine draws air into the engine, compressing the bypass stream to produce 80 per cent of the engine's thrust, and feeding air to the gas turbine core;
- Over a decade of research and development have led to the testing of the new carbon/titanium blades;
- The carbon/titanium blades will be manufactured using state-of-the-art automated composite construction methods and materials;
- The blades will deliver reduced fuel burn and CO2, low-energy processes and maximises the use of the materials reducing waste.