Second source suppliers are to be added as soon as possible, but CFM opted for a phased approach, rather than selecting all of the partners at the same time. The company, however, already has determined which parts will be produced in-house or purchased.
GE and Snecma are dedicating $750 million in capital investment to the Leap program infrastructure. Blade manufacturing facilities are being built in Rochester, N.H., and Commercy, France, in 2014 and 2015 in order to ensure an output of 34,000 Leap blades per year–there are 18 per engine. The two plants’ layout, machining and tools will be identical.
As part of their efforts to expedite production maturity, the two CFM partners already have produced about 2,000 blades in their existing facilities and are currently building them at a rate of about 50 per month. That will increase to 100 per month by the end of the year.
None of these blades, however, will be used on a production engine. “We continue to learn. It is a brand-new process for us, and we have to be comfortable,” says Harant, adding that CFM is “still adapting blade design based on the test results.”
The composite blades are made by using a new weaving design to withstand bird strikes. Using composites makes the blades significantly lighter than the titanium parts used in the CFM56.