Fan Blades

Accelerate your efficiency

Fan blades often produces 90 % of an engine’s thrust, making them crucial for jet-engine performance and efficiency. However, the fan blade’s large size, unique geometries and the variety of materials used in the manufacturing process create challenges for measurement and inspection. Inaccuracies in the shape of the leading edge and airfoil surface (bend, twist, and thickness) will decrease engine efficiency and thrust.

High accuracy and repeatable measurements are required throughout the product lifecycle of fan blades, to ensure peak performance of an engine.

Quality Gates along the production process of fan blades

Fulfilling requirement for metal and composite

The evolution of the fan blade is one of the most visible to the traveller, from the small "clapper" style to the huge modern composites blades, the one thing is common -- they have a major job to carry out.

Providing the bulk of the thrust during take off, cruise and landing, the fan blades are some of the single biggest contributors to engine efficiency on the engine propelling air around the bypass of the engine in the most efficient way possible. The bow, sweep, twist and lean of the airfoil engineered to perfection requiring an equally matches set of quality tools available from ZEISS.

Metal fan blades

Metal fan blades, mainly aluminium and titanium, have been the method of manufacture since the start of the jet engine. The design complexity pushes the boundaries of the manufacturing methods. The blades have developed significantly from relatively simple geometries and solid materials, to, three-dimensionally swept airfoils with hollow or honeycomb structures. Meanwhile, with each evolution, the number of blades has got fewer per engine and normally blades have become larger and more expensive to manufacture.

Stock cylindrical metal. Colored to show grain size and direction of metal domains with an image from a microscope to the top left of the cylinder.

Forging Process

The modern tools and analsis from ZEISS can have add a huge benefit on traditional processes like forging to really make step changes in productivity and levels of right-first-time.

The challenge

The die for the forging process is of paramount importance to the production of the fan blade. Ensuring the die and subsequent blades are conforming is where ZEISS technologies come in.

Our solution

ZEISS technologies are great for digitally capturing and analysing in 2D and 3D the conformity of the blades and the life and wear of the die.

Initial Forging of the hipstem from stock material. Voids in blue to show possible defects in forging process. Magnified voids above the stem.

Airfoil Edge finishing

​Airfoil edge Finishing is the process step taking the forged airfoil, often with "squared edges" to the finish leading and trailing edge shapes. It's at this point it's also common to check the internal cavities of the blade be it honeycomb or web structures for their integrity.

The challenge

The combination of the twist, lean and edge shape make the measurement and inspection task very demanding. The impact of small features on the edges, in relation ti the size of the blade are challenging. For internal characteristics the blade size and material properties are demanding.

Our solution

  • Digitally capturing and analysing in 2D and 3D the conformity of the whole airfoil including the intricate edges
  • ZEISS solutions measure in highest resolution and accuracy to analyse the edge: regular radius, elliptical shape, etc.
  • ZEISS offers CT solutions for checking the internals to quality standards required
Forged stem shown to show flashing form the forging process. Would be as received part from the supplier.

Root/Tip Machining

The final machining ensures the part is fit for it's intended final use. The tip clearances critical to gas leakage to the casing and the root form for it's precision fit to the fan disc.

The challenge

The overall size of the component, sometimes beyond 1.5metres, in combination with the small tolerances on the root form put demands on selecting the right technology, probes or sensors.

Our solution

  • The ZEISS solutions are complimentary and present themselves with tactile CMMs or ATOS ScanBox.
Stem further processed. Image above shows microscope image of debris on filter. From cleaning processed part.

Final Validation

Regulatory and OEM requirements like AS9102 or AS13003 are necessary, stringent and comprehensive to fulfil.

The challenge

Fan blades are often deemed critical parts due to the impact if they fail in service, as such, the validation requirements to demonstrate airworthiness are some of the most demanding in the engine.

Our solution

  • High-accuracy tactile, optical and microscopy solutions to fulfil thousands of characteristics necessary to validate
  • ZEISS Quality Suite helps to compile the results in an effective way
  • Specific software like Blade Inspect Pro enables to qualify every characteristic on part drawings or other standards in an efficient manner

Composite Fan Blades

Composite fan blades are an evolution of the metal fan blades in terms of design offering enhanced material properties and often enabling the blades to be significantly larger due to their lighter weight. But there’s a reason this hasn’t been done until more recent times. The process requires high skill when produced manually and otherwise high levels of cost and development for automated processes. The end result is a high-performing blade which are noticeable on the most modern jet engines.

Stock cylindrical metal. Colored to show grain size and direction of metal domains with an image from a microscope to the top left of the cylinder.

Carbon fibre lay up and trim

Modern manufacturing techniques need complimenting with modern analysis techniques. Carbon fibre fan blade processes are labour intensive and rely heavily on accurate shaping tools, layup dies to produce the critical shape of the fan blade.

The challenge

The shaping die tool is critical to the creation of the overall shape of the blade and airfoil and needs regular checks for wear.

Our solution

  • ZEISS technologies are great for digitally capturing and analysing in 2D and 3D the conformity of the die as well as it's life and wear over time.
  • ZEISS CONTURA
  • ZEISS VOLUMAX CT
Initial Forging of the hipstem from stock material. Voids in blue to show possible defects in forging process. Magnified voids above the stem.

Resin injection and curing

Once the fibre has been laid, the resin is added giving the rigidity and the part is cured to it's final airfoil shape.

The challenge

Inherent with any forming, molding and shaping process, the final parts have a tendancy to want to change in an organic way.

Our solution

  • ZEISS technologies are great for digitally capturing and analysing in 2D and 3D the conformity the part in the mold and when it's out to build the process understanding for long term improvements.
Forged stem shown to show flashing form the forging process. Would be as received part from the supplier.

Finish Machining

The final machining to the root and tip is critical to performance and function. The root forms have small tolerance requirements to match perfectly with the disc and the tip dimensions important to ensure no gas leakage between the blade and the casing which would introduce inefficiencies in the engine performance.

The challenge

The overall size of the component, sometimes beyond 1.5metres, in combination with the small tolerances on the root form put demands on selecting the right technology, probes or sensors.

Our solution

  • ZEISS technologies are great for digitally capturing and analysing in 2D and 3D the conformity the part in the mold and when it's out to build the process understanding for long term improvements.
  • ZEISS PRISMO Family
  • ZEISS Integration Series
Stem further processed. Image above shows microscope image of debris on filter. From cleaning processed part.

Metal Leading Edge

The metal leading edge is a work of art. A single piece of freeform geometry carefully bonded to the main carbon blade.

The challenge

Verifying the complex external and internal shape on the metal edge is time consuming and expensive often requiring dedicated fixturing.

Our solution

  • Optical Technology from ZEISS allows measurement of the external shape and form and removes the need for hard fixturing, due to features like virtual clamping
  • ZEISS tactile technologies additionally verify features in the highest accuracy
Stem further processed. Image above shows microscope image of debris on filter. From cleaning processed part.

Final Validation

Regulatory and OEM requirements like AS9102 or AS13003 are necessary, stringent and comprehensive to fulfil.

The challenge

Fan blades are often deemed critical parts due to the impact if they fail in service, as such, the validation requirements to demonstrate airworthiness are some of the most demanding in the engine.

Our solution

  • High-accuracy tactile, optical and microscopy solutions to fulfil thousands of characteristics necessary to validate
  • ZEISS Quality Suite helps to compile the results in an effective way
  • Specific software like Blade Inspect Pro enables to qualify every characteristic on part drawings or other standards in an efficient manner

Repair and Overhaul

Maintenance and repair are enormous cost factors throughout the entire product life cycle. Additionally, time is critical when it comes to getting fan blades back in the air. OEMs need high-speed measuring systems and software that can anticipate service, failures and overhauls now more than ever.

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