MORPHO: an EU-funded project to develop a new generation of aeronautical structures

  • Financed by Horizon 2020, the project aims to develop intelligent, multifunctional & multi-material structures such as fan blades
  • The consortium composed of 10 European entities and led by ENSAM will work together from April 2021 until September 2024

June 2021. MORPHO “Manufacturing, Overhaul, Repair for Prognosis Health Overreach” aims to, design, develop, test and validate an innovative, robust, and environmentally friendly industrial process to manufacture, monitor, and recycle a new generation of intelligent, multifunctional, multi-material parts such as engine fan blades. This process will rely on embedded sensors, data-driven hybrid twins, and machine learning algorithms to track the entire life cycle of the targeted aeronautical parts in real-time. The final goal of MORPHO is to contribute to developing standards that will enable a reliable, sustainable, agile, and cost-competitive industrialization of smart structures for aeronautics.

Starting in April 2021 and spanning 3.5 years – until September 2024- with a budget of €5 million financed by the Horizon 2020 programme, MORPHO is an industrial research project whose ambition is to accompany the development of smart aeronautical parts namely engine fan blades, to endow them with cognitive capabilities, and to optimise their manufacturing and their life cycle management.
The fan blades are designed and manufactured using a hybrid material. The core body of the fan blades is built up with a 3D-woven composite, while the leading edge is made of titanium. As an example, this material technology is used in the LEAP® Engine family (1A, 1B, 1C), allowing them a mass gain while exhibiting high strength and fracture toughness.

From R&T perspectives with emphasis on TRL 3, MORPHO will deal on developing and testing technological bricks on a demonstrator named Foreign Object Damage (FOD) panel. It is representative of the chord of a fan blade at a specific height. It is mainly used to test the design a fan blade before launching its manufacturing to ovoid and manage any risk. In that sense, MORPHO will rely on the same strategy.

MORPHO proposes to embed printed and fiber-optical sensors in FOD panels, thus providing them with cognitive capabilities from the moment they are manufactured. The parallel development of digital/hybrid twin models will drastically improve the FOD Life Cycle Management. Throughout the project, demonstrators will be developed to analyse and validate the proposed methods and tools.

Environmental-friendly manufacturing
A particular focus lies on the efficient, profitable, and environmental-friendly manufacturing, maintenance, and recycling of these next-generation smart engine fan blades, leading to significant industrial and environmental efficiency in line with the European Commission Circular Economy Action Plan. Moreover, the environmentally friendly recycling of its costly components is a high priority of the project.

Thanks to the development of new processes related to the disassembly of the hybrid material and the recycling of their parts, MORPHO will make it possible to offer aeronautical products and services at competitive costs and in line with the concepts of the circular economy. The project aims at developing a new methodology that combines two innovative processes: laser-induced disassembly and pyrolysis technology for the optimal recycling of the parts after their end of service life.

European collaboration led by ENSAM
MORPHO, led by the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (ENSAM), is the joint effort of European experts in smart manufacturing, sensor integration, structural health monitoring, aerospace structural parts recycling, and SAFRAN (a major Original Equipment Manufacturer) in the area of aeronautics and air transport.

In total, MORPHO brings together 10 partners from six countries: Arts et Métiers (France); Technische Universiteit Delft (Netherlands); University of Patras (Greece); Safran Tech (France); Fraunhofer IFAM (Germany); Synthesites (Greece); Comet Group (Belgium); FiSens (Germany); ESI Spain (Spain); Fundación Empresa Universidad Gallega – FEUGA (Spain).

Moreover, MORPHO project is provided with external guidance and expert advice by an international Advisory Board which represents a valuable diversity of skills and expertise and aims to reflect the range of organisations that the project seeks to engage. Namely, the Advisory Board of the project is composed of the following entities: the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); VESTAS Wind Systems; KLM Royal Dutch Airlines; Stellantis; the University of Vigo, Stanford University, and the National Composites Center (UK).