Project 4: Next Generation Fan System

Lead Participant: Rolls-Royce plc


Rolls-Royce is developing a composite fan system for deployment in future civil gas turbine engines. The primary aim of a composite fan system is to deliver a significant weight saving. 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.
This project sought to develop, understand and demonstrate aspects of manufacturing technologies required for the production of composite fan blades ranging in length from 60” to 140”. Specific areas of research included: cost reduction; development of manufacturing methods for structural metalwork to very strict tolerances; and improvements to blade assembly techniques.
This project raised the Manufacturing Capability Readiness Level (MCRL) to 4, enabling improvements in composite laminate conformance and overall blade dimensional conformance, resulting in blades that offer improved aerodynamic performance and resistance to impact from foreign bodies. Stability and technical capability of the manufacturing process have been demonstrated under controlled conditions. The rate of manufacture for defined components has been demonstrated using a defined manufacturing process. Significant improvements in cycle time have been secured - for example the debulking process, used to remove unwanted variability from design geometry during the composite lay-up process, has been reduced in time by 60%.
Rolls-Royce is developing a new, pre-production facility to test these manufacturing techniques in conjunction with the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol, creating a hub of composite knowledge. It is expected that 120 jobs will be secured by the end of 2019 due to the investment. The facility will support the ongoing scope of research and development in gas turbine composite manufacturing technologies. In the UK, 30 people have been employed directly by GKN Aerospace on this project. In the supply chain it is estimated that a further 20 jobs have been generated. These jobs should be secured over the next 4 years towards production. At the National Composites Centre 6 new jobs were created by this project.
The project significantly strengthened the relationship between Rolls-Royce and the NCC, expanding the capability of the Centre for industrial research. This has led directly to Rolls-Royce placing further industrial research work at the Centre across Aerospace, Marine and Nuclear sectors.
“Working with Rolls-Royce… has benefited the National Composites Centre (NCC) in terms of improving the technical capability of NCC resource and has demonstrated [that] the NCC can deliver technically complex projects, resulting in substantial [projects] being won from Rolls-Royce.”
Matt Hocking, NCC Technology Programme Manager

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Rolls-Royce plc, United Kingdom £2,795,313 £ 782,688


University of Bristol, United Kingdom £2,850,000 £ 2,850,000
GKN Aerospace Services Limited, East Cowes, United Kingdom £11,472,687 £ 3,212,352


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