Friday, June 6, 2014

News: AMRC to continue R&D for Rolls-Royce

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The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham is to work on the development of next-generation engines from world-renowned engineers, Rolls-Royce.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the AMRC is a world class centre for advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. The multimillion pound partnership between industry and academia has become a model for collaborative research centres worldwide and now boasts 75 partners, including Boeing and Rolls Royce.

The AMRC and the University of Sheffield join a number of partners who will carry out research and development to reduce carbon emissions by using lightweight composite materials to make Rolls-Royce engines. Research will also focus on changing parts of the engine design to make engines more efficient and reducing the time it takes to manufacture them.

The government has committed £45m to the project as part of the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which provides a single, national focus for technology research and facilities in the sector. £2 billion funding has been provided by government and industry to support the strategy with the creation of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) at its heart.

Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) said: "Today we are launching three research projects led by Rolls-Royce that will help the UK develop more efficient, technologically sophisticated aircraft engines. These new technologies are vital to reducing emissions and underline the aerospace industry's commitment to improving the environment. These are exactly the types of projects the aerospace industrial strategy and the Aerospace Technology Institute were set up to deliver."

The announcement was made at the official opening of Rolls-Royce's new £100m advanced aerospace disc manufacturing facility in Washington, Tyne and Wear, with a ceremony conducted by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The facility has the capacity to manufacture 2,500 fan and turbine discs a year. Rolls-Royce has a £71 billion order book, with around £60 billion coming from its civil aerospace division.

The ground-breaking manufacturing techniques which will be used at the facility have been developed at the AMRC with Boeing through previous R&D projects. Working with Rolls-Royce engineers, the AMRC specialists helped to significantly reduce the machining time of the turbine discs. This has led to major efficiency savings and made it worthwhile to retain the production within the UK.

It is a similar story for Roll-Royce's Advanced Blade Casting Facility (ABCF) in Rotherham that has recently been handed over by BAM Construction. Rolls-Royce worked closely with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry (part of the government's High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre along with the AMRC in Rotherham) to develop and optimise the enabling technologies.

Tony Wood, president - aerospace at Rolls-Royce, said: "Rolls-Royce is committed to investing for future growth in order to deliver for our customers. We invested £687m in facilities and equipment around the world last year. This facility will use ground breaking manufacturing techniques to produce discs for our Trent engines including the world's most efficient aero engine, the Trent XWB."

The North East-made turbine discs will hold the Rotherham-made blades in the hottest part of the engine where the operating conditions are at their most severe. This requires use of some of the strongest materials available, made from refined powders specially processed and machined to the accuracy of a fraction of the thickness of a human hair.

The blades that these discs hold each generate the power of a Formula 1 racing car and there are 68 of them in, for instance, the Trent XWB. The temperature within the high pressure turbine is 1,700 degrees centigrade, hotter than the melting point of the turbine blades themselves so they have to be coated with a special ceramic and cooled with air passed through the discs and out of a series of precise holes in the blade.

Rolls-Royce website
AMRC website

Images: Rolls-Royce

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