It has been reported that Rolls-Royce plans to flight-test later this year a Trent XWB-97 engine fitted with what it claims is the largest component ever built using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM). The titanium structure is a 15O cm diameter x 50 cm depth front bearing housing containing 48 aerofoils, manufactured using the ALM technique.
Rolls-Royce is stated to have already ground-tested several XWB-97s containing the large part, but no engine with such a large ALM component has ever powered an aircraft in flight.
It was added that although no production XWB-97s will contain the ALM component, the project is a step towards proving the industrial viability of the process which it says could trim 30% from “like-for-like manufacturing lead time”.
“It is ideal for prototyping. Shortening the manufacturing time by almost a third gives us more time to design, which is always a benefit,” stated Alan Newby, Chief Engineer for Future Programs and Technology. “We are also able to produce designs that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.”
Rolls-Royce is reported to have been using ALM to repair components for at least five years. “We are using this knowledge now to build up to bigger components,” added Newby.