CFM International has drawn inspiration from the textile manufacturing industry to produce new composite 3D woven carbon fibre technology to lighten its new LEAP engines, being used by the Airbus A320neo, and Boeing 737MAX.

The 3D woven carbon fibre blades and engine casings made by Snecma (Safran) and Albany International are incredibly strong and light, reducing the engine's fuel consumption by 15% compared with current CFM engines.

This technology was selected because of the significant weight reduction of about 500 kilograms per aircraft it brings relative to metal components. Using composite technology has allowed these new fan blades to be designed with an increased diameter, enabling greater efficiency of propulsion, which in turn saves further fuel. Composite technology also ensures a higher resistance to damage from foreign debris and resistance to temperature changes, without almost any maintenance. Using a 3D design also prevents delamination problems, which could occur on classical layered composites and all tests have shown excellent results.

To manufacture just one LEAP fan blade, seven kilometres of carbon fibres are needed. Specific facilities have been built in France and in the US to cover needs for production and spares and 30,000 individual blades are due to be constructed by 2020.

This breakthrough technology is being further refined and enhanced to enable future generation (post 2030) propulsion system architecture, in particular ultra-high propulsion efficiency options such as the open rotor concept, paving the way for further reduction in fuel burn and CO2 emissions.