Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc (IW 1000/256) announced the construction of its new advanced aerospace disc manufacturing facility with a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 21.
When fully operational, the facility at the Radial Business Park in Washington, Tyne and Wear will have capacity to manufacture over 2,000 fan and turbine discs a year.
Fan discs and turbine discs are at the heart of the engine, operating at high stress in extreme conditions providing the engine's thrust. They provide the power for a wide range of aircraft including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A380 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
"We are pleased to begin construction on this important new facility which will use some of the most advanced manufacturing techniques to produce high-tech aero engine components to power the most advanced aircraft operating today,” said Alain Michaelis, Rolls-Royce Deputy Chief Operating Officer and President of the Gas Turbine Supply Chain
“Rolls-Royce continues to invest for future growth. In the last five years we have invested over £950 million (US$1.54 billion) in the UK in new and existing facilities to ensure we maintain our competitive edge," Michaelis added.
The approximately 20,000m2 disc manufacturing facility is expected to begin production in late 2013.
At the front of the engine the fan disc holds the fan blades. There are typically 20 in each engine. They rotate about 2,700 times per minute and move 1.25 tons of air per second, the equivalent of the volume of air in a squash court. The fan discs remain in service for over 20 years.
The turbine discs hold blades in the hottest part of the engine where the operating conditions are at their most severe. This requires use of some of the strongest materials available, made from refined powders specially processed and machined to the accuracy of a fraction of the thickness of a human hair. The blades that these discs hold each generate the power of a Formula One car and operate in temperatures several hundred degrees above their melting point.
The manufacturing techniques which will be used at the facility have been developed at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Rotherham. The AMRC is part of a network of research centers which aim to work with businesses to apply university research to accelerate the commercialization of new and emerging manufacturing technologies.