Tuesday, February 23, 2016

News: AMRC up to the test

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Experts at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC) have undertaken what is thought to be the UK's first full airworthiness test for 30 years.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham and a partner in the HVM Catapult (the government's strategic initiative that aims to revitalise the manufacturing industry), the AMRC focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

It houses an Advanced Structural Testing Centre (ASTC) which provides state-of-the-art means, methods and skills to validate engineering materials, components, assemblies and full products.

Lincolnshire-based Game Composites utilised the centre when it needed fatigue testing for a new aerobatics aircraft. The company was founded with the aim of creating an easy handling two seater aircraft that would be recognised as the most fun to fly aircraft in the world.

Although the new GB1 has been designed and built in the UK, Game's initial plan involved shipping the aircraft to the Czech Republic for full airworthiness certification, until Phil Spiers, head of the ASTC became aware of the project.

"When I heard about the plans to design and build an aerobatics aircraft within 60 miles of the AMRC, I was determined that we should keep the whole production process, including testing, inside Britain," says Phil.

The ASTC believes this will be the first time in more than 30 years that a plane has been designed, built and tested in the UK.

"We hadn't done it before but we have the skills and experience in abundance to help this manufacturer get its planes into the sky as quickly as possible," adds Phil.
Engineers at the ASTC designed a bespoke test rig to apply forces up to ten times those exerted by gravity, simulating the forces the aircraft will have to cope with as it carries out high speed manoeuvres.

They made some of the parts of the rig, while other components were made elsewhere within the AMRC.

The ASTC called on the skills of welding specialists from the Nuclear AMRC next door and the abilities of the AMRC's own apprentices to construct a complete "whiffletree," which distributes test forces over the aircraft's fuselage and wings, causing them to twist and flex as they are designed to do in flight.

Mounting the plane on the whiffletree was a big challenge in itself. The fuselage, with wings fitted, had to be lifted four metres into the air and then flipped upside down.

The ASTC has also had to devise a way of heating the whole of the aircraft to 70°C while some of the tests were carried out. Calling on subsidiaries of Sheffield-based leading European supplier of specialist building products, SIG, a box was created around the aircraft's body which maintained the temperature, while remaining cool to the touch outside.

After 71 633 cycles of fatigue testing, the successful completion of airworthiness tests of the GB1 could open the way for the testing of light aircraft to return to the UK and further contracts.

AMRC website
Game Composites Facebook page

Images: Game Composites / AMRC

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