Fan blade funding

GKN Aerospace and Rolls-Royce have received £7.4m from the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) to help the companies develop lightweight carbon-fibre fan blades for aircraft engines.

SEEDA’s funding will be invested in a pre-production facility and essential infrastructure for the Environmental Lightweight Fan (ELF) research programme. ELF aims to prove advanced, high-rate production processes for a new all-composite engine fan blade.

The overall programme is supported by a total investment of £43m, jointly derived from the Technology Strategy Board, Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace and SEEDA.

‘This new facility, based on the Isle of Wight, UK, is a key part of our commitment to creating a global centre of excellence for aero-engine components and structures within GKN Aerospace,’ said Rich Oldfield, technical director at GKN Aerospace.

‘It will ensure we, our partner and suppliers can sustain the level of development progress required to have composite engine fan blade technology ready to meet major international business opportunities – including upgrades to existing aircraft and engines as well as entirely new airframe programmes.

‘Furthermore, these important process developments will be transferable to the automated manufacture of many other aero-engine components and structures and will benefit other key UK industrial sectors such as marine, health, construction and energy.’

This stage of ELF will be completed by 2012 with processes expected to be proven by then. At that time GKN Aerospace will focus on production and the detailed optimisation of the manufacturing process.