Rolls-Royce and Liebherr-Aerospace create power partnership

Posted on 12 Jun 2015 by Jonny Williamson

Rolls-Royce and Liebherr-Aerospace have announced a 50:50 joint venture to develop manufacturing capability and capacity for the power gearbox for Rolls-Royce’s new UltraFan engine.

According to Rolls-Royce, its UltraFan – a geared design – is based on technology that could be ready for service from 2025, and could offer upwards of 25% improvement in fuel burn compared with the first generation of Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

The power gearbox will enable the UltraFan to deliver efficient power over a range of take-off thrusts for high-bypass ratio engines of the future. For the highest thrust engines, each single gearbox will be capable of handling the equivalent horsepower produced by more than 500 family cars.

The joint venture, located in Friedrichshafen, Germany, will provide production engineering for the power gear drive train components. The manufacturing of the components will initially be done in existing Liebherr facilities.

As production volumes increase, the joint venture will look at options for creating a standalone manufacturing infrastructure.

Rolls-Royce will continue to lead the design definition and design integration of the power gearbox, as well as the testing activities.

Tony Wood, Rolls-Royce president, Aerospace commented: “The UltraFan engine design includes a suite of new technologies to power next-generation aircraft.

Rolls-Royce has significant experience with thousands of engines currently in service.

“The power gearbox is an integral part of this new design, and we are delighted to be partnering with Liebherr on this highly efficient future power gearbox technology.

Josef Gropper, MD & COO Production, Purchasing and Asset Investments, Liebherr-Aerospace added: “This exciting new engine demonstrator programme gives us the opportunity to break new ground and significantly enlarge our scope of activities.

“Due to our longstanding success in aviation gearboxes, our expertise in handling manufacturing challenges, and the Liebherr Group’s extensive competencies in gears for other applications, we will substantially contribute to develop manufacturing capability and capacity for the power gearbox.”

Rolls-Royce has significant experience of the use of power gearboxes, with four geared designs currently in production (AE2100, T56, LiftFan and Model 250) and with thousands of engines in service.

The majority of the design expertise of the new power gearbox will reside within Rolls-Royce Germany. The firm has already started construction of a new power gearbox test centre at its Dahlewitz site south of Berlin, representing an investment of more than €80m, partly funded by the Brandenburg government.

Dr. Rainer Hönig, MD, Rolls-Royce Deutschland, said: “There are already more than 100 engineers working on this project. The new test-bed is taking shape and will be ready for testing to start in late 2016. This is an exciting time for our team in Germany, reaffirming that we are a strong industrial partner in the region.