Rolls-Royce Performs First Run of UltraFan Gearbox

 - October 24, 2016, 10:38 AM
The Rolls-Royce UltraFan's gearbox produces up to 100,000 horsepower. (Image: Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce has run the world’s most powerful aerospace gearbox for the first time, marking what it calls a significant step in the development of its new UltraFan engine design.

The first run of the Rolls-Royce Power Gearbox (PGB), at the company’s facility in Dahlewitz, Germany, marked the start of a series of tests that will see the gearbox reach up to 100,000 horsepower. A vital component of the UltraFan design, the gearbox produces efficient power over a wide range of takeoff thrusts.

The first run took place on Rolls-Royce’s Attitude Rig, which allows engineers to simulate the effects of a gearbox installed on an aircraft during its takeoff climb, its approach to land or banking while in flight. The initial run confirmed rig dynamics and oil system functionality at low pressures and speeds, said Rolls-Royce.

“This is another significant step in bringing our future technology to life,” said Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace chief engineer and UltraFan program head Mike Whitehead. “We launched the UltraFan design in 2014 and now we are putting our new infrastructure to work to turn it into reality.”

More advanced testing will take place during the rest of the year to provide more data on low-power, high-speed combinations at various pitch and roll angles and at different simulated altitudes. High power testing will take place next year on the PGB Power Rig, where the gearbox will reach full power.

The UltraFan’s design goals call for a 25 percent fuel efficiency improvement over the first generation of Rolls-Royce Trent engine. Scheduled to enter service in 2025, the geared design features a new engine core architecture for maximum fuel burn efficiency and low emissions, a CTi Fan System with carbon/titanium fan blades and a composite casing to reduce weight and advanced ceramic matrix composites—heat resistant components that operate more effectively by requiring less cooling air.

Rolls-Royce works with Liebherr-Aerospace through their Aerospace Transmission Technologies joint venture to develop manufacturing capability and capacity for the new power gearbox. Rolls-Royce leads the design definition and design integration of the power gearbox, as well as testing activities.