Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially opened Rolls-Royce’s latest factory on Monday. The S$700 million ($555 million) Rolls-Royce Seletar Campus, situated at the Seletar Aerospace Park in the north of Singapore, is designed to double the engine manufacturer’s Trent engine output to more than 500 a year. In addition to engine assembly and test, the campus also houses fan blade manufacturing, research and training activities.
Rolls-Royce COO Mike Terrett explained that the new 650,000-sq-ft complex and the one in Derby, UK, are “sister facilities.” At full capacity, the Singapore factory will produce 250 Trent turbofans per year. In Derby, the rate is currently at 200 per year and increasing.
In Seletar, the company will begin with Trent 900s and Trent 1000s–which power the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787, respectively. The first examples will be Trent 900s, with the first due to be shipped to Toulouse in the third quarter of this year. In fact, depending on their destination, engines will travel by air (to Airbus in Toulouse) or by sea (to Boeing in Seattle).
Eventually, the new factory may produce other models such as the Trent XWB, which will power the in-development Airbus A350 XWB. This will happen depending on production volumes, said Terrett. A “moving mixed-flow line” will enable simultaneous assembly of different Trent engines. Meanwhile, the test unit can accommodate up to 150,000 pounds of thrust, far higher than that of today’s most powerful Trent turbofan.
Another feature is the wide-chord fan blade manufacturing facility. It is the first outside the UK to manufacture the hollow titanium blades, a technology that partly explains the success of the Trent family architecture, Rolls-Royce said. It will start to produce Trent 900 blades in the middle of this year, and full capacity at Seletar will be 6,000 blades per year (there are 24 and 20 fan blades on the Trent 900 and the Trent 1000, respectively).
Local authorities have helped the company a lot, according to Rolls-Royce officials. They would not disclose, however, how much funding in subsidies, loans or tax exemptions the company has received. They insisted on the “business-friendly” attitude of the government and agencies in solving problems.
Terrett said 500 new jobs would ultimately be created. A total of 1,000 people will be employed at Seletar, as some will be relocated from other Rolls-Royce sites in Singapore. Eventually, the firm will have a workforce of 2,000 in the country. Its value-added contribution in Singapore will reach a predicted 0.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2015, including suppliers, according to Rolls-Royce.