It's looking like a hot summer for Avio Aero's Engineering and Global Supply Chain teams involved in the flagship programme for commercial engines: the GE9X. And for the same teams, the autumn and winter are looking unseasonably hot too.
Because we have Design Responsibility for the low pressure turbine components (rotors, blades, stators, shrouds and casing) for the legendary GE90's successor, designed to power the future giant of the skies, the B777-X. And for the first time, we are also Low Pressure Turbine (LPT) Module Owner for the entire turbine. In other words, we are responsible for managing relations with all our industrial partners working on the turbine system, with the sole exception of aerodynamics, so we are providing significant support. Not to mention the fact that we are responsible for other key components such as: Accessory Control Transmission (comprising Inlet Gearbox, Transfer Gearbox and Accessory Gearbox, connecting shafts and their fittings) and Engine Turning System (the new accessory that keeps the engine's high-pressure shaft in rotation at switch-off, thus preventing wear and inefficient performance).
So it's going to be a scorcher of a summer, because Toll Gate 4 came to an end in May with the Preliminary Design Review (release of the castings for the gearbox components and turbine airfoil component, i.e. rotor blades and stator parts), thus marking the start of TG5: the detailed design will be completed in June and July, when the task will be passed on to production (Detailed Design Reviews), and then TG6 gets under way. Requiring close, effective cooperation between Engineering and Supply Chain, this is a critical phase in which Engineering signs off the deliveries of all its contributions to the programme, and passes them on to Industrialisation (known as Concurrent Product Design).
The aim is to industrialise the production processes quickly and make timely delivery of the first engine, for which the modules under our responsibility, which form the Fan Hub Frame (IGB and TGB), will be sent to Pomigliano for assembly by the end of the year, then shipped to the United States by the end of January 2015. The same applies to the LPT and AGB (accessory gearbox) modules, which are due for dispatch between December 2015 and January 2016. The timetable requires progress at record speed, considering that the time allowed between TG3 and FETT (First Engine To Test) is just 15 months, whereas the best time achieved on previous New Product Introductions (NPIs) is 22 months. It's a challenge that requires maximum effort in terms of Fastworks and Simplification in particular.
And it's a major undertaking because the new GE9X has to offer a 10% improvement in performance compared with its predecessor in terms of fuel consumption, weight and even cost. Achieving this requires top-level problem-solving, technological and managerial skills. Considering that the new Boeing 777-X promises airlines a 20% improvement in specific consumption compared with the Boeing 777, the GE9X engine will have to account for half of this substantial improvement. How? Through the introduction of new technologies and new materials (such as ceramics) - and we are among the first to do this - that will make the GE9X stand out from its predecessors and its competitors alike. A major technological programme (NTI) preceded the launch of the NPI, for the specific purpose of facilitating the use of these innovative solutions.
That's why over 130 people across all sites are currently involved, and this number will rise to about 600 once the process is ramped up.
Our current role as Module Owner requires new skills, more involvement and more responsibility for the teams, especially in relation to activities such as logistics, assembly and coordination. We also enjoy a higher profile in the eyes of the final customer, in this case Boeing, and an authoritative voice in decision-making. This is obviously a major growth opportunity for the people involved, who are working with the utmost enthusiasm and dedication on the programme. On every site.
At Cameri, for example, the production of the first TiAl rotor blades, using the innovative Electro Beam Melting (EBM) process, got under way at the beginning of May. The first examples have already been produced and are currently undergoing testing on the GEnx engine. These tests have enabled us to contribute to the enhancement of the Additive Manufacturing technology, in view of its application on the GE9X, especially with effect from the FETT, in record time.