In researching and reporting on the aerospace industry it is often that the focus goes to the aircraft airframes when looking for applications and opportunities for CFRP. With the introduction of the upgraded A320 NEO and B737 MAX and other new transport aircraft over the next few years, the emergence of aircraft engines as a major consumer of these materials and technologies has been growing considerably. In 2005, CFC’s data indicates that approximately 1 million pounds of structures went into production of engine nacelles, fan blades, cascades, acoustic liners and other components. In 2013 this demand for composite engine components had grown to approximately 2.54 million pounds – second only to production of commercial and regional transport airframes. Over the next 10 years approximately 309 million pounds of composite aerostructures are forecasted to be produced globally. Nearly 40 million pounds of this total (12%) is expected to go to jet engine production.
These volumes are based on CFC database of aerospace systems, composite components, and production activity. Generating demand for engines and related composite components, aircraft OEMs are anticipated to deliver roughly 30,000 jet powered aircraft. To support related programs, global engine OEMs are expected to deliver approximately 63,400 turbofan engines (plus spares) to aircraft manufacturers. In terms of engine unit volumes, commercial and business aircraft represent the greatest unit volumes for these engines:
- Commercial Transports: 39.5%
- Regional Transports: 4.0%
- Military Fixed-Wing: 9.4%
- Business/GA: 46.4%
- UAS: 0.8%
The overall value of the composite components going into these jet engines in 2013 is estimated to be about $780 million, and is expected to grow substantially over the next five years, CAGR 12.8% before leveling off. Commercial transport engines account for approximately 80% of market value and volumes. The value placed on fuel efficiency, weight reduction, long-term performance, and part size helps to make CFRP very attractive for a wide range of nacelle, thrust reverser, and fan section components. The General Electric Leap 1 engines are also expected to feature considerable quantities of carbon reinforced ceramic composites in the high-pressure turbine to replace nickel-metal alloys. If successful, these ceramic composite components could provide a platform for even more substantial growth for composite aeroengine components towards the end of the decade.