China is exporting a ceramic jet engine blade processing machine as part of a wider jet engine collaboration between Germany and China. The machinery produces turbine blades capable of withstanding temperatures several hundred degrees Celsius higher than the melting point of metallic alloys.
Turbine blades convert heat generated by combusted fuel into the energy that propels a plane. The blades are one of the most important components in modern aircraft, both military and civilian, and their quality determines how safe, powerful and durable a jet engine will be.
The technological progress could be a very important step for made-in-China jet engines, with China now the world’s largest market for commercial aircraft. Thousands of planes are on order from Airbus and Boeing, and China is also developing its own C919 passenger jet.
Improved blade-processing technology, combined with breakthroughs in alloy casting and aerodynamic design, has allowed China to produce a brand-new series of powerful military jet engines.
The most notable example is the WS-15 turbofan jet engine, designed for use in China’s J-20 stealth fighter. The WS-15 has experienced reliability problems, but state media boasted last year that its performance matched that of the Pratt & Whitney F119, the world’s most advanced jet engine in military service, which was developed in the United States for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
Many Chinese researchers and engineers who had worked at GE, Pratt &Whitney and Rolls-Royce had returned to China and significantly increased the pace of jet engine development.