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MarketScreener Homepage  >  Equities  >  London Stock Exchange  >  Rolls-Royce Holdings plc    RR.   GB00B63H8491

ROLLS-ROYCE HOLDINGS PLC

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Rolls Royce : Trent XWB in focus

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08/11/2020 | 05:19am EDT
Trent XWB in focus

Even when cruising at 35,000 feet, it can be easy to forget that flying is a truly incredible feat. Jet engines are constantly pushing the boundaries of physics; all while becoming quieter, more efficient, and better for the environment.

Just over six years ago, engineers waved off the first Trent XWB engine as it made its way from Derby, UK to Airbus' headquarters in Toulouse, France, ready to power the first Airbus A350 into the sky. The Trent XWB is the exclusive engine for the A350.

Now, the first engines have reached their first 'shop visit' - where engines are taken apart, and parts that endure a high amount of load or stress are replaced. For example, a high-pressure turbine blade experiences the same load as a Formula 1 car every time it takes off and will complete thousands of flights before it needs to have these blades replaced.

As the first engines leave the workshop, we look at how the Trent XWB has performed.

Millions have flown powered by the Trent XWB
The Trent XWB now powers 317 aircraft for 31 operators, helping them to reduce CO2 emissions and fly further on less fuel, reliably and efficiently. It has demonstrated industry-leading standards of reliability, durability and versatility.

As the aviation industry gradually begins to recover from the historic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, the A350 is being used significantly more than other models. Its versatility and the ability to store belly cargo and passengers, as well as its fuel efficiency, has meant that many A350 aircraft have continued to fly at least once a day.

The Trent XWB is the most reliable engine we have ever produced; it is ready to take off on time 99.9 per cent of the time, which means the chances of a flight being delayed because of the engines are extremely slim.

It's also the most efficient engine we've ever made, thanks to a combination of improved technology, lightweight materials, a high bypass ratio, and the continuous improvements in efficiency we've made across the Trent family of engines over the past 25 years.

350 times around the world before a shop visit

For an engine that regularly flies through some of the world's harshest conditions, sometimes for up to 18 hours at a time, it's unprecedented that the Trent XWB has demonstrated such durability and reliability.

'Jet engines are incredibly complex pieces of engineering, made up of tens of thousands of components that are each working flat out. We are always pushing the boundaries of physics, and it can't be overstated just how impressive it is that the Trent XWB has flown for so long without a shop visit. It's like you driving a high-performance car for five years without it ever needing to go to a garage,' says Adair Swan, Senior Vice President, Trent XWB Services.

It is very normal for engines to need parts servicing before their first scheduled shop visit. Sometimes new and more efficient engine parts present new challenges, and that's part of innovating. But the Trent XWB has performed consistently, reaching its first scheduled shop visit and beyond.

The first engines to be overhauled have travelled on average 14 million kilometres, the equivalent of 350 times around the world. They've travelled to 111 different cities and have behaved exactly how we wanted them to over time, with no unplanned maintenance.

Pushing the boundaries of components

More than 10 Trent XWB engines have now completed their first shop visit, where engineers have had the chance to look inside the engine. We strip 1,400 of the 18,000 parts in the engine, and in the first engines to be overhauled, the vast majority have performed flawlessly, including in the hottest parts of the engine.

During routine inspections as part of these scheduled shop visits, we identified indications of wear in the Intermediate Pressure Compressor (IPC) of a small number of engines that have been in service for four to five years and are approaching their first overhaul. None of these engines have experienced any abnormal in-flight operation, however we are inspecting all other Trent XWB-84 engines of a similar service life as a precaution.

Given the limited scale of additional work which we anticipate will be required at existing shop visits to address this wear, together with the availability of replacement parts and spare engines, we do not expect this issue to create significant customer disruption or material annual cost. We are providing this update to address any potential speculation which may result from an Airworthiness Directive (AD) which is to be issued by our regulator, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). ADs are a commonplace instrument used by aviation regulators to ensure compliance with necessary inspection and maintenance procedures.

There are currently just over 100 Trent XWB-84s in service that have been in service for four to five years. We have inspected the majority of them and found signs of wear on an average of only 1 or 2 IPC blades in only a fifth of those inspected. We have also taken the precaution of sampling a number of younger Trent XWB-84 engines and have found no unexpected wear.

The future of repair technology

We found this issue through proactive engine inspections, which we've done throughout the Trent XWB's life. This has been an important way of ensuring it has performed so reliably. We randomly select engines and inspect parts, even those which we don't expect to repair or replace.

We feed this data into digital twins, so we can model how engine components are behaving in real-time. It means we can predict more accurately how parts may or may not wear out over time, and catch problems before they happen, or amend maintenance schedules accordingly.

We're also using digital twin technology to repair integral bladed disks, or blisks, which improve efficiency in the Trent XWB-97 variant of the engine. They are highly valuable components which are difficult to replace if damaged. We worked with UK universities to develop digital twin and laser technology which rebuilds areas of the component should they be damaged.

We're also working on technology to increase the amount of data we get from our engines, and we're making it easier for airline engineers to capture this data when engines are being inspected and overhauled.

For example, we're experimenting with technology that can rapidly take more than 100 images of turbine blades, building a full 3D visual model in a matter of minutes. The technology optimises the lighting, takes the photos and feeds data in our system, building a more complete picture of how parts are performing on engines of various lifespans.

By putting this technology into Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities, we can capture data from parts that otherwise would have been automatically recycled, without a detailed inspection taking place.

More protection in harsh environments

Our engines fly through difficult conditions every day and are built and tested to withstand anything the weather throws at them. But the combination of weather and air pollution in some places can wear out engine parts.

We're testing protective coatings that we'll apply to our high-pressure turbine blades, which will preserve the blades and allow them to last longer. We conduct tests that replicate the sort of conditions which are potentially damaging to engine parts. For instance, we're planning a sand ingestion test later this year.

With new coatings, we could see significant improvements in high pressure turbine blade durability in harsh environments and, when certified, we'll incorporate these and other improvements in future overhauls.

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Disclaimer

Rolls-Royce Holdings plc published this content on 11 August 2020 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 11 August 2020 09:18:05 UTC

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