Friday, October 31, 2014

News: New wings at the AMRC

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Engineers at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham continue to showcase their capabilities in prototyping and design by further developing an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the AMRC is a world leading model partnership between industry and academia that focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. It employs around 200 highly qualified researchers and engineers from around the globe, who have worked on manufacturing challenges for likes of Airbus, Boeing and GKN Aerospace.

Small fixed-wing remote-controlled aircraft – often known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – have a host of applications such as aerial surveys, photography and environmental monitoring. A team at the centre's Design & Prototyping Group set themselves the challenge of proving that a viable UAV could be made using relatively simple additive manufacturing technologies.

Making the glider involved developing new techniques that rapidly reduced the time, the amount of materials and the cost of manufacturing components using 3D printing technology. Creating the latest version of the UAV, which now includes electric-powered, ducted fan engines, has involved further advances in making functional parts using Rapid Manufacturing (RM) technology.
Members of the team recently returned from Salt Lake City, after being invited to deliver a presentation on the UAV project to an aerospace manufacturing conference organised by SAE, the global association for aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries engineers and technical experts.

New manufacturing techniques were developed for producing carbon fibre components and making component jigs, fixtures and moulds, as well as parts of the UAV's airframe, by Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM).

They also improved pitch control by creating a moveable "Duck Tail" that uses concepts similar to those recently used in Formula One racing to harness the air leaving the UAV’s engines for aerodynamic effect.

Last, but not least, they designed a launch catapult, including parts made by RM technology, which can propel the UAV into the air with an acceleration up to three times that of gravity and a speed of just under 30 miles an hour.

Having developed a UAV, capable of cruising at around 45 miles an hour, the team’s next challenge will be to replace the electric ducted fans with miniature gas turbine engines and double the UAV’s wingspan to three metres.

The team is also looking at using novel ways of controlling flight to replace conventional methods and developing structural batteries – reducing weight by using parts of the UAV's structure to store the power it uses to fly.

Dr Garth Nicholson, senior design engineer at the AMRC (pictured, far right) said: "The project was a success on all levels, from team building, experience gained in structural and systems design and design for manufacture through to testing and validation of Computational Fluid Dynamics.

"The aircraft was developed using both an incremental design philosophy, as well as trialling experimental manufacturing techniques in carbon fibre production."

AMRC website

Images: AMRC

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