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  1. Case studies

Design for engine reliability

Shortening the time to market, improving working practices, improving product performance.

How can engines be built to perform more reliably? Can you limit the risk of engine failure using statistics?

Rolls-Royce, one of the world's largest manufacturers of aircraft engines, has received a boost to its business performance and the confidence of its engines - thanks to software developed by research from City University London.

What did we explore and how?

Researchers at City used survival analysis to model the time between failures in equipment and to understand the risk of failure, the factors influencing the risk and the prediction of the time of failure in engines.

Research in survival analysis and in stochastic operational research began in the 1980s, with the aim of improving the reliability and availability of plant and equipment. The insights gained from this research allowed the removal, avoidance, mitigation and management of failures and their causes.

The software developed as a result of this research, called 4Cast, automates and accelerates the analysis of engine components, modelling their reliability and risk of failure. 

For industry partner Rolls-Royce, 4Cast can model the reliability of components, subsystems and entire engines using all kinds of relevant data, so that a business case can be supported for a new engine, or the project rejected based on the expectation for the engine's performance.

4Cast analysis of historical data has even uncovered previously unknown risk factors for engine failures

Benefits and influence of the research

The 4Cast software allows all relevant information known on engine components, their past history and use in the field, to be assessed. This information is then used to predict their behaviour, reliability and expected lifespan, taking account of anticipated operating conditions. It can then model components together to determine the case for subsystems and whole engines.

The 4Cast system has been used extensively at Rolls-Royce since 2006, and has allowed in-house teams to carry out the modelling and analysis, rather than having to make use of external partners.

It is used within Rolls-Royce's process of determining the minimum reliability for an engine that still gives a profitable business case. For example, the engine used for the Airbus 350 aircraft was the first to make use of this software back in 2008, and continues to do so extensively. The software has influenced Rolls-Royce's pioneering approach to engine maintenance, and it has helped improve the performance of their Trent family of engines, which are used in electricity generation.

4Cast analysis of historical data has even uncovered previously unknown risk factors for engine failures.

The software supports the analyses underlying the maintenance planning and support for engines in service through, for example "Power by the Hour". The result is that this software has a significant impact on the business performance at Rolls Royce across the group, and in associated support of the aerospace, marine and energy markets around the world.

The researchers

  • Professor Martin Newby (Principal Investigator)

More about this research

  • School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering
  • Status: Completed
  • Topics: Engineering
  • Industry/sector: Automotive and industrial manufacturing
  • Funder: Defence and Aerospace Research Partnerships (DARP)
  • Project partners/stakeholders: City, University of London, United Kingdom (Lead Research Organisation) and Rolls-Royce plc
  • Publication link: External link