Rolls-Royce has launched a new project to accelerate future aerospace technologies.
Engineers will work on 20 technologies that will aim to reduce disruption for airlines and lessen environmental impact by repairing components rather than scrapping them.
The project – called REINSTATE – has been launched with support from the ATI innovation programme, a joint government and industry investment to maintain and grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture.
Technologies being investigated include:
- Snake robots – these travel inside jet engines to access complex parts, enabling repairs which are not possible with today’s tools;
- Engine sensors – data is sent which improves predictions of when engines need maintenance;
- Inspection and analysis tools – these inspect parts buried deep within engines while they are being repaired; and,
- Advanced automated repair technologies – parts which cannot currently be repaired are targeted, meaning they do not need to be scrapped.
Miniature maintenance and inspection tools as well as new repair technologies will be used on Rolls-Royce’s existing engines such as the Trent XWB. Engineers will also explore how to repair and maintain aerospace materials and components for future low-carbon engines, including electric technology.
Another element of the project is inspection and repair solutions for composite fan technology, which aims to reduce the weight of a jet engine. Rolls-Royce intends to use this in its next-generation engine design called UltraFan.
Rolls-Royce said CO2 emissions would be reduced as a result of the combined take-up of the technologies as engines would be able to fly longer and avoid unnecessary maintenance. With more components repaired rather than replaced, scrappage will also be reduced. Savings will also be made with the reduction of movement of people and parts by using more digital inspection techniques and key-hole surgery for engines.
“Our latest engines are quieter and cleaner than ever before, substantially reducing CO2 emissions,” said Rolls-Royce’s chief of technology – repair and services Dr Ian Mitchell. “This programme will take that one step further by improving how we service our engines, creating technologies which will reduce waste, avoid emissions and minimise disruption, while laying the foundations to service the gas turbine and hybrid-electric engines of the future.”
Work has begun on the project in Derby, UK, and will continue for more than three years, in conjunction with universities and SMEs including Roke Manor Research, BJR Systems, Clifton Photonics, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, the University of Nottingham, the University of Sheffield, and the University of the West of England.