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Minister opens world's 'most Advanced Turbine Blade Casting Facility'

posted 26 Feb 2015, 09:15 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 10 Mar 2015, 08:53 ]
Rolls-Royce today (Thursday Feb 26 2015) marked the official opening of its new £110m Advanced Blade Casting Facility (ABCF) with a ceremony conducted by Business Minister Matthew Hancock. When fully operational in 2017, the 150,000 sq ft (14,000 sq m) facility in Rotherham will employ 150 people and have the capacity to manufacture more than 100,000 single crystal turbine blades a year. These blades will feature in a wide-range of Trent aero engines including the world's most efficient civil large aero engine the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB, which powers the new Airbus A350 XWB.

The turbine extracts energy from the hot gas stream delivered by the engine’s combustor and uses it to drive the fan and the compressors. The blades produced in Rotherham operate in the hottest part of the engine at temperatures up to 200 degrees above the melting point of their alloy and sit in a disc that rotates at more than 12,000 rpm, creating a centrifugal force equivalent to the weight of a London bus hanging off each blade. They are grown in a special process which ensures that they are created from a single metal crystal to maximise their strength. They are then coated with a heat-resistant ceramic and when in use they are cooled with air that passes through a series of precisely placed holes in the blade.

Business Minister, Matthew Hancock said: “This new facility will house the most advanced blade casting facility in the world and is a truly remarkable feat of engineering. When operational, it will create 150 high skilled jobs and support the local economy.

“Our aerospace growth partnership has put in place a long-term industrial strategy for the whole aerospace industry and this investment by Rolls Royce in new technology and modern manufacturing processes is testament to the ongoing strength of this sector. Continuing to back leading companies like Rolls Royce, and supporting the UK’s manufacturing sector is part of the government’s long term economic plan.”

Gareth Davies, Rolls-Royce Executive Vice President, Turbines said: “It was a great pleasure to welcome the Business Minister to open the most advanced blade casting facility in the world. Rolls-Royce is committed to investing in innovative technology and world-class facilities to help us deliver our record £73.7 billion order book. This facility will use ground-breaking manufacturing techniques to produce single crystal turbine blades for our Trent engines including the world's most efficient aero civil engine, the Trent XWB.”

Rotherham's director of planning, regeneration and culture, Paul Woodcock, said: "Rolls-Royce brings another global, hi-tech, high-quality addition to Rotherham's Advanced Manufacturing base. We're delighted to have helped the company make this choice, which is a massive boost for the ambitious plans for Sheffield City Region, in which Rotherham is playing a truly significant role."

The ABCF will have ground-breaking automated manufacturing techniques including integrated was fabrication lines, 3D structured light inspection, which measures the entire surface of components and computed tomography (CT), which has the ability to measure deep into the blade’s internal structure. These techniques have helped reduce the time it takes to manufacture a turbine blade by 50% while producing a step-change in component performance. This state of the art facility makes use of manufacturing methods developed within Rolls-Royce and at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Ansty, near Coventry. Some of the £15m investment by the UK Government was used by Rolls-Royce to develop these techniques.

There are two types of turbine blade manufactured at the Rotherham facility: high pressure (HP) and intermediate pressure (IP) single crystal blades. There are 182 turbine blades of these types in each Trent XWB engine. One HP turbine blade extracts around 1000 horsepower from the gas flow towards the rear of the engine, which is equivalent to the power of a Formula 1 racing car, to drive the engine’s compressors. Each blade is approximately 10cm in height and 300g in weight and goes through 200 processes before it is ready to be installed.