Development of composite fan blades for new generation intelligent motors

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Photo credit: MORPHO website logo and engine graphics (copyright CFM International, Eric Drouin photographer), Smart structures & Embedded life cycle management diagram of the presentation “Embedded Life-Cycle Management for Smart Multimaterials Structures: Application to Engine Components” by N. Mechbal for Circular Aviation for Green Growth – Partner event of EU Green Week 2021.

In the transition to Industry 4.0, the deployment of connected objects is reinventing the manufacturing and maintenance processes, allowing better integration of the value chain. Adding native connectivity to aircraft parts is a key technology to unlock this transformation. MORPHO (Embedded Life-Cycle Management for Smart Multimaterial Structures: Application to Engine Components) is an EU-funded project that aims to integrate sensor technology into engine components, providing them with cognitive capabilities to improve building processes. manufacturing and operational readiness without compromising safety.

MORPHO is the joint effort of European experts in smart manufacturing, sensor integration, structural health monitoring (SHM) and recycling of aerospace structural parts. The MORPHO consortium is led by the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers (ENSAM, Paris, France) and includes 10 partners from six countries including the engine supplier Safran (Paris, France), TU Delft (Netherlands); University of Patras (Greece); Fraunhofer IFAM (Germany); Synthesites sensor specialist (Greece); Comet Group (Belgium); FiSens (Germany); ESI Spain (Spain) and Fundación Empresa Universidad Gallega (FEUGA, Spain).

MORPHO offers to embed printed and optical fiber sensors during the manufacture of composite fan blades for aircraft engines. The parallel development of digital / hybrid twins will significantly improve blade life cycle management (LCM). Particular emphasis will be placed on the efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly manufacture, maintenance and recycling of these next-generation intelligent motor fan blades. MORPHO’s ambition is also to help establish future standards for a reliable, sustainable, agile and profitable industrialization of these new intelligent and multifunctional parts as well as their associated manufacturing, maintenance and recycling processes.

The MORPHO consortium will work from April 2021 to September 2024 in this Horizon 2020 program of 5 million euros funded by the EU.

Photo credit: “Embedded Life-Cycle Management for Smart Multimaterials Structures: Application to Engine Components” presentation by N. Mechbal for Circular Aviation for Green Growth – EU Green Week 2021 Partner Event.

Intelligent, multi-functional, multi-material fan blades

Modern and future engine fan blades, such as those used in the LEAP aircraft engine, are designed and manufactured using a 3D woven carbon fiber fabric impregnated with epoxy resin and hardened to Resin Transfer Molding Aid (RTM). A titanium leading edge is bonded to increase resistance to erosion and impact. This construction allows for significant weight savings while maintaining high strength and toughness (see “Weaving the Future in 3D”). Yet, they remain vulnerable to an unexpected impact from foreign bodies and the initiation of damaging mechanisms. In addition, their environmentally friendly recycling remains a challenge.

Aiming at Technological Readiness Level (TRL) 3, MORPHO will develop and test technological bricks on a foreign object damage (FOD) panel demonstrator representative of the composite fan blade chord at a specific height. This approach makes it possible to test the design of a fan blade before launching its manufacture to avoid and manage any risk. MORPHO will therefore use a similar strategy.

Photo credit: “Embedded Life-Cycle Management for Smart Multimaterials Structures: Application to Engine Components” presentation by N. Mechbal for Circular Aviation for Green Growth – EU Green Week 2021 Partner Event.

MORPHO offers to embed printed and fiber optic sensors in FOD panels, offering them cognitive capacities from their manufacture. The parallel development of digital / hybrid twin models will significantly improve the lifecycle management of FODs. Throughout the project, demonstrators will be developed to analyze and validate the methods and tools proposed.

Environmentally friendly manufacturing

The environmentally friendly recycling of expensive components of a composite fan blade is a high priority of the MORPHO project. Thanks to the development of new dismantling and recycling processes for hybrid metal-composite parts, MORPHO aims to reduce the cost of future aircraft parts and align them with the circular economy. The project aims to develop a new methodology combining two innovative processes: laser-induced dismantling and pyrolysis technology for optimal recycling of end-of-life parts.

The MORPHO project benefits from external advice and expert guidance from an international advisory board that represents a valuable diversity of skills and expertise and aims to reflect the range of organizations that the project seeks to involve, including: European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); VESTAS wind systems; KLM Royal Dutch Airlines; Stellantis; the University of Vigo, Stanford University and the National Composites Center (United Kingdom).

More details can be found on the CORDIS website MORPHO project information sheet. the MORPHO project website is currently under construction, but we hope it will be available soon.

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