Materials and processes
Aircraft engines require highly specialized materials that have to offer high levels of mechanical strength as well as being able to withstand very high temperatures. To meet these needs, Safran and partners are working on the production of ultra-high-performance metal alloys. A new nickel-based alloy known as AD730, for example, was developed by our supplier Aubert & Duval, for turbine disks. Capable of withstanding temperatures exceeding 700°C (50°C more than its predecessor), this material will help make engines more efficient. Working in partnership with Safran Aircraft Engines, the same supplier has also developed an ultra-high-performance steel (ML340) that boosts the breaking strength of engine turbine shafts by 15% compared with the previously used steel.
Lighter engines and aircraft
Aircraft must shed weight to help meet the challenge of delivering a 50% cut in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Composite materials will play a key role in achieving this goal. Made from a "framework" of fibers (carbon, for example) injected with a resin-based matrix, composites significantly reduce engine weight. The fan blades and cases on the new LEAP engine are made using a proprietary 3D woven composite and resin transfer molding (RTM) process, to reduce engine weight while also enabling a larger fan diameter, for greater fuel efficiency. New alloys also reduce the weight of other major aircraft components. For example, we use titanium alloys on the landing gear for the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 XWB, reducing weight by 8% compared with steel components.
A constant focus on process innovation
The effective use of cutting-edge manufacturing processes – such as high-speed machining and additive manufacturing – is key to Safran's performance. Additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) involves building up successive layers of metal or other powders, using 3D design software, to produce small and/or complex components. The manufacture of carbon brakes is another area of focus for new process development, the aim being to improve the brake material's resistance to wear, thereby reducing landing costs for airlines.
Reduced environmental impact
Innovation in materials and processes also reduces the environmental impact of air transport. The lower weight of the new-generation LEAP engine, for example, will help cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 15% compared with current engines. Safran has also developed a "dry adhesion" technique for surface treatment of the leading edge of LEAP engine fan blades which is more environmentally friendly than the previous liquid-based method.
Recycling is also built into the manufacturing processes employed by Safran, which has a policy of strict compliance with European environmental standards as well as regulations governing the use of chemicals in industry, such as:
- REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of CHemicals): European Union regulation aimed at improving safety for the production and use of chemical substances in European industry.
- ROHS (Restriction Of Hazardous Substances): European directive that restricts the use of certain potentially hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electrical and electronic equipment.