A LEAP toward composites

  • 14-Dec-2009 04:08 EST
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On a test bench is the CFM LEAP-X eCore with fan blades and case made from resin transfer molding technology.

Advanced metallics and superalloys are found aplenty in the core of modern-day engines designed for performance and environmental efficiency.

Composite materials are working their way onto the engine, too, as evidenced by GE Aviation's GEnx's composite case—the first one in commercial aviation. France's Snecma is also making strides in finding new applications for composites on the engine—specifically for fan blades.

"The use of composite materials is very important in reducing fuel burn and CO2 emissions," said Francis Couillard, General Manager of Environmental Matters for Snecma. "They let us increase the temperature for thermal efficiency while reducing weight. If you reduce weight and fuel consumption, then you need to bring less fuel with you on the aircraft."

Employing 3-D woven resin transfer molding (RTM) technology, Snecma is building large, composite fan blades that can save as much as 1000 lb per aircraft on a twin-engine plane, according to Couillard.

The blades will go into CFM's LEAP-X eCore, which will also have a composite case made with the same RTM techniques. The LEAP-X fan will feature 18 blades, a 50% reduction vs. the CFM56-5C, and 25% fewer blades than the CFM56-7B.

If all goes as planned, the first LEAP-X demo engine test could be certified by 2016.

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