An illustration of the UltraFan geared turbofan engine, with the world's largest fan blades.

Rolls Now Manufacturing World’s Largest Fan Blades

Feb. 12, 2020
Carbon-fiber composite parts production has started at Rolls' technology hub, in advance of ground testing for the 140-in. diameter UltraFan demonstrator in 2021.

Rolls-Royce reports it started manufacturing a series of geared turbofan engine blades for the demonstrator version its forthcoming UltraFan® engine, at its jet-engine technology hub in Bristol, England. Each blade is formed in a composite material, and with a 140-in. diameter engine case for the demonstrator they qualify as "the world’s largest fan blades," according to Rolls.

The blades are formed from numerous layers of carbon-fiber composite material, combined with a resin and then treated with heat and pressure. After forming, each blade is finished with a thin edge of titanium.

The composite blades have been tested on an Advanced Low Pressure System development engine, including in-flight testing on the Rolls-Royce Flying Test Bed.

The UltraFan engine will begin ground testing in 2021, and it will be available for commercial aircraft service later in this decade. The engine design is scalable, from 25,000 lbs. up to 100,000 lbs.

UltraFan is Rolls’ first aircraft engine to adopt geared turbofan technology, in contrast to high-bypass turbofan technology, a power system it says will provide at least 25% more fuel-efficiency and similarly reduced emissions levels compared to current standards. The UltraFan platform also will feature a new, core architecture incorporating various new technologies, and a broader application of high-temperature materials (ceramic matrix composites), that together will establish a high power rating but greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.

According to Rolls, UltraFan will offer a 25% fuel reduction compared to the first generation of its Trent high-bypass turbofan engines, and deliver the same percentage reduction in emissions. Part of the efficiency improvement will be due to UltraFan’s composite fan blades and fan case, which reduce weight on a twin-engine aircraft by 700 kg.

“This is the decade of UltraFan and it’s exciting to enter the 2020s with the start of production of the demonstrator engine," according to Rolls-Royce president, Civil Aerospace, Chris Cholerton. "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.”

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