Rolls-Royce is announcing 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 and securing 120 jobs in the city by the end of 2019. This 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% 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 1,500lb per aircraft, the equivalent of carrying seven more passengers and their luggage.
The pre-production facility will be developed within an existing building alongside Rolls-Royce’s new facility for carbon-fibre 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 pre-production 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.
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.
A set of the CTi fan blades, incorporated into a Trent 1000 ‘donor’ engine, successfully completed a full flight test programme on a Rolls-Royce 747 flying test bed at Tucson, Arizona, USA in December last year. A rigorous testing programme of the complete fan set continues to take place throughout 2015.