Rolls-Royce tests composite fan in Derby

Rolls-Royce has started ground tests of a composite fan system for its UltraFan future engine programme.

The UK manufacturer says that the trial began earlier this month in Derby and is scheduled to continue through March.

Tests will include fan blade tip clearance measurements, engine trials with damaged blades to assess performance after a potential bird strike, and fan flutter behaviour.

While R-R tested carbon-titanium (CTi) fan blades on its Boeing 747 flying testbed in 2014 and during cold-weather rig trials in Canada, the current ground tests for the first time cover an entire composite fan assembly – dubbed “Advanced Low-Pressure System (ALPS) – comprising blades, a fan case and annulus fillers.

R-R previously said that it will use a Trent 1000 – an option for the Boeing 787 – as a donor engine for the trial.

The fan components were manufactured using fully automated construction methods at the manufacturer’s dedicated composites technology centre.

Each fan blade consists of around 500 carbon-fibre layers and is fitted with a titanium leading edge to provide “extreme protection” against bird strikes or other foreign object damage.

R-R says that it is producing for each blade a digital twin with data from the tests and that the virtual model will enable engineers to predict in-service performance of individual blades in future.

The manufacturer’s chief engineer civil aerospace demonstrator programmes, Ash Owen, states that more than a decade of research and development has been invested in the ALPS technology and that the ground trial will bring the team “one step closer” to testing a complete UltraFan demonstrator engine.

R-R previously said that ground trials of the fully integrated demonstrator engine are set to begin in 2021.

The manufacturer had planned to start the ALPS ground tests in 2018. But the trial was delayed as a result of limited test cell capacity in Derby.

Courtsey of Michael Gubisch at Flight Global

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