E-PROPS PROPELLERS Company
195, Route de l'Aviation
ZI Aérodrome de Sisteron
04200 VAUMEILH - France
Phone : +33 4 92 34 00 00
Phone reception opened from Monday to Friday
From 9 to 12 a.m. (Paris time)
Today, the E-PROPS design department is composed of 18 aeronautical engineers and technicians.
They are doing theoretical calculations, modelling, prototypes development, then experiments on ground and in flight.
They have a great experience, recognized by their peers, and are regularly requested for specialized conferences and symposia.
The design department establishs the specifications of each propeller by taking into account :
- The characteristics of the engine (power, troque, thrust, RPM)
- The airframe which is going to be equipped with this optimized engine + propeller
(puller or pusher configuration, aerodynamic characteristics, wings / fuselage interaction...)
- The required performances of the aircraft
- The conditions of use and the missions of the aircraft
The team uses successful CAD softwares, and have developed an iterative program : LUKY
To optimize a propeller, for a specific engine and a specific aircraft, is a complex task because :
- flight speed, engine RPM and power are compulsory
- propeller diameter is limited either by aircraft geometry (ground clearance or fuselage clearance) or by peripheral speed (supersonic issues).
Propulsion efficiency factor is calculated from propeller diameter and engine power. This efficiency factor is the max achievable propeller efficiency.
Then, it is up to the propeller designer to come closer to this limit.
The available optimization parameters are :
- number of blades
- blade loading distribution vs span
- chord distribution
- pitch distribution
- airfoil vs span
To increase number of blades allows reducing lift of each blade.
So the induced drag of each blade is reduced. But, with a constant chord, this increases the friction drag.
And if chord is reduced, Reynolds number decreases and airfoils characteristics are degraded. Use of small chords also leads to mechanical strength issues.
When looking for the optimum load distribution, induced drag must be taken into account. For example, blade tip cannot generate high lift without high induced drag.
Chord optimization leads to use each airfoil at best lift/drag ratio, without forgetting Reynolds variation effects and checking airfoil matching to CL conditions (Reynolds and Mach).
Pitch distribution is used to maintain an optimum lift coefficient to each airfoil in order to get the chosen lift distribution with the optimized chord and airfoil distribution.
Linked to this complex process, propeller design is an iterative calculation. The modification of one parameter leads to change the others.
The LUKY software, formerly called LmPTR, is an aerodynamic, mechanical and manufacturing process model of E-Props propellers, fully developed
and enriched since 2007 by Jérémie Buiatti and his team of engineers. It uses the C++ programming language.
LUKY allows to model directly the behavior of a complete E-Props propeller (blades and hub) on a given engine, from an aerodynamic and mechanical
point of view, including vibration and fatigue life.
Stresses in the carbon folds of a blade section
This software is a model of the type lifting line for the speed of execution, in order to allow the exploration of the domain of possible propellers
with the help of an evolutionary algorithm (metaheuristic), in order to automate the search for propeller solutions (mechanical and aerodynamic dimensioning)
for a given problem, to best meet the user's specifications.
LUKY is also coupled to an aerodynamic model of the free vortex wake to verify, in extreme cases, the relevance of thelifting line model.
Multi-objective evolutionary metaheuristics (population of propellers solution)
For the mechanical part, a Finite Element Dynamic Beam model with damping is used. It simulates and analyzes the behavior of the blade in bending and
torsion, which allows, once coupled with the aerodynamic model, to be representative for the Stall Flutter, for the possible resonances with the engine
and for the bird strike. A Rainflow-type algorithm is used to compare the stresses to the fatigue tests, and thus to define the propeller's lifetime.
Evolution of aerodynamic parameters
The LUKY software allows to model the manufacturing process of the E-Props propellers: drawing of the mold, lamination plan and cutting program of the
carbon fabric, machining program of the foam core, dimensional control scan program, machining program, drilling and grinding of the blade root.
Engine torque ripple (4 cylinders)
When designing new propellers with LUKY, the more information the E-Props team receives about the engine concerned, the more accurate the design will be.
If it is a piston engine, the relevant information is the number of pistons, the mass of the piston-rod assembly and the moments of inertia and torsional stiffness
of the crankshaf, the compression ratio.
If there is a torque damper device, it is for example its angular deformation-torque response law that will reveal all the vibratory modes likely to be encountered
in the use of the propeller, in order to define their impact on the life span and what would be the possible resonances to be checked during the test campaigns.
It also allows to simulate a gearbox design.
Aerodynamic performance of profiles
More recently, with the arrival of the eVTOL configuration, LUKY integrates the realization of models for a strongly oblique attack, in order to
characterize the impact on the propeller and its life and to define the loads to which the engine will be subjected in terms of wave torque.
This can go as far as a complete modeling of the engine support arm, engine and propeller assembly to verify the dynamic behavior of this whole
assembly in oblique attack and at different operating speeds.
The same code is used to verify the lateral wind loads for aircraft installations.
Evolution of engine RPM and thrust
The LUKY software integrates all the functions of propeller design and manufacturing, which makes this software accurate and competitive in use in
order to perform studies of a very high quality for a reasonable cost.
Since the beginning of aviation, propellers did not stop evolving.
In leisure aviation, three main periods can be distinguished :
The 1st generation of propellers for the light aviation was contituted by wooden or metal propellers.
In the 1940s - 1950, those fixed-pitch propellers were adapted more or less well to direct drive engines (as Continental, Lycoming, Volkswagen).
They were mostly certified. To have a little better efficiency, the only solution was to use some rare variable-pitch, heavy and expensive.
In the 1980s - 1990, some composite propellers come on the market. Those propellers were lighter and showed a better efficiency.
The ground adjustable pitch system marks a significant step forward for leisure aviation.
The 2000s - 2010 have discover the 3rd generation of propellers.
Due to mechanical performances of the carbon fiber, new aerodynamic designs become possible : high CL profiles, narrow chords, very big diameters, positions of the blades...
The numerical modelling studies allow to optimize propeller's performances on all speed's range of the aircraft.
It is possible to obtain the best thrust during all the flight with the same pitch (what is called "ESR effect" on E-PROPS propellers).
It is not necessary to choose between "take-off" and "cruise" performances.
The constant advances in innovative technologies, design's tools and tests systems let envisage in the next years new progress on propellers.
V20 range : tensile, bending & torsion tests Carbon parts as strong as Rotax gearbox shaft !
- Centrifugal load test of a carbon E-Props propeller
Results : safety coefficient = 7,2. The system carbon hub + blade can hold 6 times the maximal load during 1 hour without any damages (EASA CS-P asks only 2 times for certified propellers). => Report : centrifugal load tests VORP
- Fatigue tests
Stress the blade with alternating bending, to reproduce the engine's torque, and to establish the real propellers MTBO (Mean Time Between Overhauls).
MTBO 2.000 hours validated by tests.
Disassembly at 2.016 hours (more than 360 millions of cycles) : nothing to report
These tests results are extremely satisfactory, because they consolidate calculations and modellings of our engineering department by a check in real conditions at 10 times the worse case of functioning. => Video (Youtube E-PROPS channel)
- Centrifugal load test of a PLUG'n'FLY propeller
Results : safety coefficient = 4,6.
The system carbon hub + blade can hold 4 times the maximal load during 1 hour without any damages (EASA CS-P asks only 2 times for certified propellers). => Report : centrifugal load tests PLUG
The E-PROPS propellers are certified following the ASTM F2506-13 standards.
All E-PROPS models have undergone extensive testing to meet this standard.
=> See Quality Page
- Test bench with instruments and traction measurement system.
- Fatigue tests bench, to stress the blade with alternating bending, to reproduce the engine's torque, and to establish the real propellers MTBO.
- Traction tests bench. 40 tonnes hydraulic cylinder.
In order to understand the propeller operation, it is simpler to perform the analysis at propeller level rather than at airfoil level.
First, the third Newton law assess : "If a part A applies a force FA on a part B, The part B applies a force FB on the part A.
FB has the same value than FA, the same line of action but the opposite direction". This law is summarized by "action = reaction" principle.
If we want our propeller A use a forward force, it must apply on "B" a backward force.
For the aircraft, "B" is the air mass going though the blades swept disc.
It is not really a mass but a mass air flow. This "mass air flow" is equal to "disc surface" x "air speed" x " air density".
To apply a force on the mass air flow, blades are like wings.
Blade airfoils allow propeller to apply lift forces on air flow. The propeller applies a force on the air flow so the air flow speed is modified.
The difference between the upstream air speed and the downstream air speed is calculated as followed :
Delta Velocity (upstream/downstream) = pull / mass air flow DV = P / dm
from the second Newton law : F = d(m.v)/dt
This speed variation induced by the pull is applied half upstream and half downstream.
Mass air flow is so equal to : Dm = mvo x Sdisc x (Vflight + DV/2)
- mvo : air density (kg/m^3)
- S disc : blades swept disc (m²)
- Vflight : Flight speed
Some power calculations can be carried out :
- usefull power delivered by the propeller to the aircraft : Pu = Pull x Vflight
- absorbed power : Pa = Pull x (Vflight + DV/2)
So propulsion efficiency factor : rp = Pu / Pa
==> propulsion efficiency factor is an absolute limit which is the design goal for the propeller designer.
Choice of a small diameter for the propeller leads to mediocre performances. And this becomes worst with a low flight speed.
Number of blades may allow reducing the performance loss (see after in the text).
But this cannot be enough to reach the performances with an adapted diameter.
Propulsion phenomenon power losses cannot be decreased by the propeller designer.
But he must take care not to increase them with a bad pull distribution along the propeller disc.
So he must chose the right pitch, chord and airfoil distribution in order to get the optimum lift distribution.
Unfortunately, others energetic losses exist : losses linked to blade drag.
Blades are like wings and generate lift and drag. This drag consists of 2 parts : friction drag and lift induced drag.
A/ Friction drag on blade airfoils
Drag = 0.5 x Mvo x S x CD x V²
Blade case is more complex than wing one, because speed is variable from foot to tip of the blade.
At blade foot :
Low speed and small chord lead to ridiculous Reynolds number => airfoil performances are mediocre (high CD and low CLmax)
At blade tip :
High speed and very small chord => Reynolds number remains small.
But as the speed is close to sound one, Mach number is high.
High Mach leads to airfoil characteristics degradation.
With a small curvature or incidence defect, airflow may become supersonic and so generate noise and degrade performances.
B/ Lift induced drag
The wing has a finite span and so lift generate induced drag. Air speed is constant along the span. Induced drag can be calculated easily at wing level.
For the propeller blade, induced drag modeling is not easy because of the variable speed along the span.
For this drag assessment, Helices E-Props engineers don't find adapted calculation method in specialized press or in labs studies reports.
So the team has implemented a new and efficient calculation method.
Calculation duration is quite long : 90% of the airflow modeling duration is used to define induced effects on blades linked to iterative documentation.
This chapter has listed causes of propeller propulsion energetic losses.
Trigonometric aspects of the modeling have not been presented because they are out of scope of this simplified explanation of the modeling process.
The inertia of an object is its capacity to resist a variation of speed. The slowness is directly connected to the mass of the object and thus confronts in kg.
For rotating objects, the mass is not a sufficient information.
The mass of the object is associated with its distance by report the axis of rotation, in order to compare the capacity of resistance with a variation of angular speed.
It is the moment of inertia : MOI (in kg.cm²).
The moment of inertia is a very important data for the propellers.
Indeed, the aeronautical engines are mostly piston motors.
The brace undergoes a push of the connecting rod in every tour in 2-strokes engines, and both tours in 4-strockes engines.
The brace is accelerated during an about-turn, and is slowed down during the rest of the cycle.
It is the inertia of all the rotary set which is going to allow to assure the rise of pistons and regularization of the rotation.
The propeller makes the biggest steering wheel of inertia.
If it is pulled by a reducer, the points of engine torque will be supported by the reducer.
If it is directly bound on the brace (for direct drive engines), this one will support all the efforts.
The efforts are besides passed on through all the system: the braces of redrive engines can also suffer if the moment of inertia of the propeller is too high.
And the screws of the propeller are submitted to the same efforts.
Using of a propeller with a moment of inertia upper to the values indicated by the engines manufacturers is going to decrease of the longevity, even to break the reducer or the screws of the propeller.
That's why the engines manufacturers indicate the maximum values of moment of inertia of the propellers which can be adapted to their engines.
Be careful : in case of problems linked to the use of an unsuitable propeller, with a too high moment of inertia, engines manufacturers may refuse any guarantee.
The E-Props moments of inertia are calculated when the propellers are designed. Then the data are verified and measured for each propeller.
Even a very light propeller is going to generate a sufficient flywheel.
For example, the MOI of the 3-blades E-Props for Jabiru 2200 (70 hp) is 1.500 kg / cm ².
It represents the MOI of a steel disk of 14 kg in diameter 300 mm thickness 25 mm.
The engines manufacturers give Max MOI, never Min...
It is important to know the moment of inertia of the propeller, and verify that this MOI respects the limitations of the engine manufacturer.