With fuel accounting for around a third of global airline expenses, driving down aircraft weight - and increasing fuel efficiency - is a key focus for the aviation industry. As a global leader in aero-engine technology, one way GKN is helping OEMs achieve these savings is by replacing traditional titanium components with lighter carbon fibre composites in large engine parts.
Traditionally, using polymer composites within engines has been a major challenge because of the high temperatures and complex geometries involved in engine manufacture. Over the last decade however, GKN’s engineers have been at the forefront of progress in material science and automated preforming processes that has enabled an accelerated adoption of lightweight composites in this area.
Today, GKN manufactures lightweight composite fan cases and fan spacers for several OEMs. It is also developing and validating a hybrid metal/composite fan frame, which is expected to reduce component weight by as much as 30% when compared to a similar metallic solution. Competitive manufacturing techniques like automated pick-and-place of fabrics or prepregs and resin transfer moulding are being developed for this part, allowing significant cuts in manufacturing time.