A £14.8 million GKN Aerospace facility will be at the heart of developments in the Environmental Lightweight Fan (ELF) research programme which aims to produce a new all-composite engine fan blade that will improve aircraft engine performance and reduce emissions.
The ELF programme is being undertaken by GKN Aerospace and Rolls-Royce and is aimed at bringing new engine fan blade technologies to market readiness to meet approaching opportunities in the global aerospace sector.
Rich Oldfield, Technical Director at GKN Aerospace commented: “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. 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. If Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace and the UK aerospace sector are to maintain and grow market share as these opportunities arrive, we must all move forward swiftly.”
Oldfield continues: “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 proven. At that time GKN Aerospace will focus on production and the detailed optimisation of the manufacturing process.
GKN Aerospace and Rolls-Royce are being supported in this development by the South of England Economic Development Agency (SEEDA). In a matched funding exercise, SEEDA is investing £7.4 million to support the partner companies and the technology base in the South of England.
Rob Douglas, Chairman of SEEDA commented: “SEEDA has worked with GKN, Rolls-Royce and the Isle of Wight Council over the past 12 months to bring this groundbreaking R&D centre here. The Island is a centre of excellence for composite technologies, high value manufacturing and green technologies with a highly skilled workforce. We are continuing to work on attracting new businesses and growing existing ones on the Island to boost job opportunities and promote growth.”
In order to effectively manufacture complex, curved aero-engine structures in the quantities required, new, sophisticated and high speed manufacturing techniques such as those the ELF programme is focused on, will be critical.
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