CFM Gears Up for Leap Production

 - October 22, 2012, 11:40 AM
CFM is already test-manufacturing 3D-woven composite fan blades in an effort to ensure, from day one of serial production, a low scrap rate.

CFM, the 50/50 joint venture between GE and Snecma, has embarked on a “major” risk-abatement plan to ensure a smooth production transition from its CFM56 to the new Leap-1A, B and C engines, chosen to power, respectively, the Airbus A320neo, the Boeing 737 Max and the Comac C919 single-aisle airliners. “Transitioning from 1,600 engines per year to the same output of another type in two years, this is something the industry has never done before,” François Harant, Snecma’s supply chain director, told AIN. While plans call for the earliest Leap production engines to enter service in 2016, CFM plans to spread the switch to the new models over 2017 and 2018.

Snecma has already begun manufacturing large numbers of the new 3D-woven composite fan blades, meant to serve simply as test components. In an effort to avoid producing a high proportion of scrapped or reworked fan blades, the company plans to accelerate its “lean lab” production from 50 to 100 blades per month. Snecma has set a “scrap rate” target of less than 10 percent during serial production.

Snecma and GE expect to invest a total $750 million to build or upgrade facilities. GE, for example, has enhanced its before-shipment test facility in Peebles, Ohio. Snecma has upgraded its Snecma Xinyi Airfoils Casting factory in China.

In Rochester, New Hampshire, and Commercy, France, two new factories will produce a combined 32,000 fan blades per year by 2019, according to CFM. Plans call for both to devote space to Albany Engineering Composites (AEC), Snecma’s “preferred supplier” for carbon-fiber weaving and one of the few new providers for the Leap. Some 90 percent of the Leap’s 300-plus suppliers already provide parts for the CFM56 program.

GE and Snecma want to “de-risk” their supply chain, down to those small family businesses that might encounter difficulty accessing credit. The strategy includes offering such small enterprises CFM-backed bank guarantees, explained CFM executive v-p Cédric Goubet. “We also support suppliers for them to have access to raw material,” Harant added.

For each part number, CFM plans to find multiple sources. “We’ll complete first source selection no later than early next year,” Harant promised. Wanting to avoid the burden of managing a double supply chain from the beginning, CFM plans to introduce second sources later, in a progressive fashion.