Rolls-Royce has begun to manufacture the world’s largest fan blades as part of its UltraFan project, which aims to create a new more efficient and sustainable jet engine.
As a set, the composite blades have a 140-inch diameter, which is almost the size of a current narrow-body fuselage.
The fan blades are created through the build-up of hundreds of layers of carbon-fibre materials, pre-filled with resin material.
Heat and pressure are then applied, and each blade is finished with a thin titanium leading edge, which offers protection against erosion, foreign objects and bird strikes, the company says.
UltraFan will is designed to offer 25% fuel reduction compared to the first generation of Rolls’ Trent engine, and deliver 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’s president, civil aerospace, said: “This is the decade of UltraFan and it’s exciting to enter the 2020s with the start of production of the demonstrator engine.
“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.”
UltraFan, which will start ground tests in 2021 and be available towards the end of this decade, is a scalable design from 25,000lb all the way up to 100,000lb.
The blades are being made at Rolls’ facility in Bristol, UK.