Aerospace AM

Rolls-Royce moves ahead with 3D printed Advance3 aircraft demonstrator engine

The engine demonstrator integrates 3D printed components as well as parts made from ceramic matrix composites

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Rolls-Royce is best known as a luxury car maker based in the UK. What some may not fully realize, is the the British multinational also plays a significant role in the aerospace industry,  designing and manufacturing power systems for aircraft. As part of its effort to ring in new innovations in civil aerospace, the company has increasingly turned to additive manufacturing.

Recently, for instance, the company announced that it has successfully integrated 3D printed components and new materials into its Advance3 engine. The Advance3 engine, to be available starting in 2025, is made up of around 20,000 parts, a significant number of which have been 3D printed.

At this stage, the Advance3 demonstrator engine has successfully undergone over 100 hours of testing. Rolls-Royce has emphasized the high performance demonstrated by the 3D printed parts in the engine as well as components made from ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). The Advance3 engine is proving a new core for the Rolls-Royce UltraFan engine design.

Advance3 Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce is exploiting many of the common advantages offered by additive manufacturing, including design flexibility, increased part complexity, lighter parts, part consolidation, as well as quick iteration and part turnaround times. The CMC parts—which as far as we know have not been 3D printed—have also offered benefits, including better heat resistance and lighter weights than metal counterparts.

“Testing so far has been completely seamless, which is an outstanding achievement when you realise that this is an engine incorporating a range of new technologies as well as a brand new core architecture,” commented Ash Owen, Rolls-Royce, Chief Engineer, Civil Aerospace Demonstrator Programmes. “We have completed our first phase of testing and analysing the results right now. We like what we see from the CMC and [AM] parts performance. ”

Throughout testing of the Advance3 engine, Rolls-Royce engineers gathered millions of data points to evaluate the engine’s performance. The testing process itself began last November and peaked in July when the engine reached full power. Rolls-Royce’s aim with the new engine is to advance towards the more ecological and cost efficient IntelligentEngine it has envisioned for the future.

More specifically, the Advance3 demonstrator integrates a new engine core which will deliver “optimum fuel efficiency and low emissions.” When all testing has been completed, the new core will be integrated into the UltraFan engine assembly. Expected to be released in 2025, the new UltraFan engine will reportedly offer 25% better fuel efficiency than a first generation Trent engine.

In addition to a number of new 3D printed components and CMC parts, the Advance3 demonstrator engine also consists of a Trent XWB fan system, a Trent 1000 low pressure turbine and a compressor system that enables a pressure ratio of up to 70:1.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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