International News from World: “It’s on another scale from anything I’ve seen before,” says Lorna Carter who recently started working at a new Rolls-Royce research and development facility near Bristol.
She works with giant robots which lay thousands of strips of carbon fibre tape to form a cylinder some 3.7m (almost 12ft) in diameter. The cylinder forms the outer shell of Rolls-Royce’s new engine, the Ultrafan.
Still under development, Rolls-Royce says the Ultrafan will be quieter and more fuel efficient than anything it has made before.
It will certainly be bigger.
“The component we’re trying to make is massive and we are at capacity, it’s really stretching the limits of what we can do,” says Ms Carter.
At the £25m facility Rolls-Royce has also developed robots that can make fan blades from carbon fibre, a process that has taken more than 10 years to perfect.
Making the fan casing and blades from carbon fibre should result in a 20% weight saving compared with previous materials.
And that’s important as the aerospace industry is under pressure to reduce its environmental impact. Aircraft are getting more efficient, but airline traffic is growing even faster.
Rolls-Royce estimates that 37,000 new passenger aircraft will be needed over the next 20 years.