Wednesday, September 16, 2015

News: AIE signs production order with The Proving Factory

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Engine designer Advanced Innovative Engineering (AIE) is partnering with the innovative Proving Factory initiative that will see the production of the first in the series of AIE's modern Wankel rotary engines.

The £22m government-backed manufacturing initiative aims to bridge the gap (or "Valley of Death") between small enterprises developing leading edge low carbon technology and large vehicle manufacturers. It is jointly located in Rotherham and in Coventry.

Tata Steel is the key partner in establishing The Proving Factory alongside industry experts, Productiv Limited, and as part of the programme, which is backed by Government funding, a component manufacturing facility is being created at Tata Steel's site at Brinsworth. The Proving Factory has been using 1,000 sq m of leased space at Newburgh Precision at Templeborough on an interim basis for its component manufacturing operation, while the facilities are completed nearby.

AIE joins other developers of technology including Bladon Jets, Flybrid, Torotrak, Drive Systems Design, Libralato and Magnomatics.

The AIE partnership is one of the first examples of the work to get products into production. Wankel rotary engines inherently operate at very high revolutions per minute (rpm), generating a lot of heat in their cores. While high temperatures are essential for offering the best operating efficiency and in turn the best fuel consumption, this heat then needs to be safely managed and dispersed. AIE engines are unique in that they use an innovative cooling design, which applies both mechanical and thermodynamic processes to reject heat effectively. The main design challenge is achieving both precision and smoothness on the surfaces and contours of core components that are subjected to high thermal, chemical and fatigue stresses, during operation.

AIE's initial orders are from an R&D end-user of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) in the marine sector and a systems integrator developing a ruggedised hybrid motorcycle. Both of these orders are for the first in a series of ultra-compact rotary engines. There is also interest from the automotive industry and discussions are ongoing for the supply of an engine in a high-performance sports car. The first units will be produced at The Proving Factory for delivery this autumn and since the company's manufacture and assembly is completely scalable, production can be rapidly increased or decreased to reflect the market need.

The Proving Factory is supporting AIE by using the latest design computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines and tooling, together with computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software and skilled operators, to enable high-quality machining of components.

Nathan Bailey, managing director of AIE, said: "From initial engagement with The Proving Factory through to the on-going joint manufacturing, assembly and commercial activities that have been undertaken to date, AIE has benefited hugely from the experience, expertise and enthusiasm of the team. In particular the continued manufacturing support we've received has enabled AIE to push its technology further, faster, while focusing and strengthening its core competencies both technically and commercially. We look forward to building this relationship further as we commercialise our technologies into the broader market with the support of The Proving Factory."

Richard Bruges, co-founder of The Proving Factory and chief executive of Productiv, added: "AIE's design has real potential for a range of low-carbon applications and we are excited about being its production partner on this technology. The UK is truly reclaiming its heritage as a manufacturing nation, with so many promising new technologies being designed here. Historically moving these prototypes to products has been challenging for one-off developers, with little financial backing, but The Proving Factory is increasingly proving itself as the missing conduit between the stages."

The Proving Factory website
AIE website

Images: The Proving Factory

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