Rolls-Royce manufactures UltraFan demonstrator blades
Artist’s impression of the UltraFan demonstrator.

Rolls-Royce manufactures UltraFan demonstrator blades

Carbon-titanium composite fan blades are 140" diameter, almost the size of a single-aisle jet fuselage.

February 12, 2020

Rolls-Royce has started manufacture of the fan blades for its UltraFan demonstrator engine.

As a set, the composite blades have a 140" diameter – almost the size of a current narrowbody jetliner fuselage – and are being made at the company’s technology hub in Bristol, U.K. The milestone also marks the official start of production of demonstrator parts.

The fan blades are created through the build-up of hundreds of layers of carbon-fiber materials, pre-filled with toughness-enhanced resin material. Heat and pressure are then applied, and each blade is finished with a thin titanium leading edge, which protects against erosion, foreign objects, and bird strikes.

UltraFan offers a 25% fuel reduction compared to the first generation of Trent engine, and the same percentage reduction in emissions.

Part of that efficiency improvement comes from UltraFan’s composite fan blades and fan case, which reduce weight on a twin-engine aircraft by 700kg, the equivalent of seven people travelling weight-free.

Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace, said: “It’s exciting to enter the 2020s with the start of production of the demonstrator engine. We have all the building blocks in place, the design, the technologies, a brand-new testbed, and now we are actually seeing the engine come together.”

UltraFan, which will start ground tests in 2021 and be available toward the end of this decade, is a scalable design from 25,000 lb to 100,000lb. It features:

• New engine core architecture – to deliver maximum fuel burn efficiency, low emissions

• Advanced ceramic matrix composites – heat resistant components that operate more effectively in high turbine temperatures

• Geared design to maximize high-thrust, high-bypass ratio engine efficiency

UltraFan is a key element of Rolls-Royce’s sustainability strategy, which involves continual research to improve gas turbine performance as well as pioneering electrification and working with industrial partners to accelerate the incorporation of sustainable aviation fuels.

It is also part of the Rolls-Royce IntelligentEngine vision, which brings together its products, services, and digital technology.