We’re used to seeing them fly across our skies or even boarding them ourselves, but how many of us actually knows what goes into building a Jumbo Jet engine?
Rolls-Royce manufacturing plant, where the engines are built and tested, gave a behind the scenes look at the daily process of putting together these engines that will eventually be used in commercial jetliners.
Made in factories across the UK, there are several steps manufacturers have to go through before shipping off the engines. There are about 11,000 people employed to build the engines designed for jumbo style airliners, like the Boeing 777 and Airbus super jumbo. But the company’s best seller is the engine for the Airbus 330, which weighs at least five tons and carries a payload of 242 tons.
Each Trent engine is built from modules of eight separate sections, which are put together on the assembly line. But it’s not as easy as it sounds as each module is made of hundreds of components, which are stored and taken from the massive parts warehouse.
Once the parts are delivered to the various factories, the assembly can begin starting with fan blades. The blades are made from high quality metal and are designed to be more quiet and efficient. Unlike typical jet fans, this one is designed to be hollowed for better airflow. Each blade is made from three sheets of metal bonded together for a solid hold.
After this, the blade is heated to be twisted into its final shape. The layers are then inflated to leave a little opening for a light, strong internal structure. This stage in the process takes four and a half hours.
Once this is done, the fan is rung like a bell to measure its frequency. This data is used to determine where the blade will placed within the fan. After the fans are tested and meet quality standards, next comes the shield that protects the blades.
The metal the shield uses has to be trimmed down from five metric tons in weight to 400 kilos. All unused parts and scrap are saved to make more components later on. Next, a ring of titanium blades is placed, which will channel air smoothly into the engine. It takes a highly specialized form of welding to build it.
The main component of the jumbo jet engine is the 96 turbine blades. Rolls-Royce employs software designers to not only create the blade, but include the company’s patented tiny air holes that prevent the blade from melting in the building process.
From there, the blade is made by growing a single crystal into the correct shape. Before this complex process, there’s a model of the blade made by hand. After going through inspections looking for defects and cracks, the blades are cast and inspected once again. It takes a total of four days for the blades to be finalized.
When all these parts are made, it takes a total of 20 days to put all the components together. First the turbine blades are put into place. Then work begins on the kevlar wrapped fan case four days later. While this is going on, another team is working on putting together the eight separate modules.
Though it sounds simple like putting puzzle pieces together, it ends up taking nine days. A week later the fan blades are set in place another step in the process that takes extra care and precision. Once the final and biggest modules are in place, the engine is fitted with aerodynamic ducts and is ready for testing.
Looking at this twenty-step process shows not every engine is built the same. There’s no doubt Rolls-Royce puts a lot of care, efficiency, and thought process in every step of the engine building process. It’s something to keep in mind next time you see a plane fly across the sky.