The environment is everything these days for engine manufacturers and suppliers, as initiatives such as the recently launched European Commission Clean Sky program drive ever more advanced ideas on reducing emissions and noise.
Volvo Aero (Stand No. Q35) manufactures components for 90 percent of the world’s large commercial engines and the Swedish company is deeply involved in the Clean Sky effort. On its stand is an example of the rear turbine structure it developed under the EC’s Antle (affordable near-term low emissions) program, which yielded technology now used in the GP7200 powering the Airbus A380 and in the GEnx aboard the Boeing 787.
Clean Sky is an EC Joint Technology Initiative, and by far the biggest-ever research project between the EC and industry with a E1.6 billion budget up to 2014. Within it, Volvo Aero carries responsibility for development of lightweight engine components for use in any of the forthcoming generation of ultra-efficient engines.
Much of the technology it will contribute was developed under a previous four-year project called Vital, wherein Volvo carried responsibility for lightweight structures. The resulting lightweight composite fan frame weighs as much as 30 percent less than its conventional titanium counterpart. A full-scale prototype of the fan frame–a crucial structural component that joins the engine core to the fan casing and airframe–is now being manufactured and will ultimately be tested in a blade-off test.
Clean Sky calls for the design and manufacture of five engine demonstrators, including geared turbofan, open rotor and geared open rotor configurations. “We are currently negotiating with the manufacturers about our involvement,” said Robert Lundberg, director of European Union research and development at Volvo Aero. Talks are under way with MTU on geared turbofan work, and with Snecma and Rolls-Royce working on open rotor and geared open rotor designs, respectively.
Last December Volvo’s composites know-how was given a major boost with its purchase of Applied Composites, a Swedish company based in Linköping. “The acquisition is part of our investment in lightweight technologies,” said Lundberg. “Our goal is to become a world leader in lightweight structures.”