Friday, July 15, 2016

News: AMRC work highlighted in aerospace strategy

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The University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has landed new research funding and previous research has been highlighted in the updated strategy for the UK aerospace industry.

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 is a partnership between industry and academia, which has become a model for research centres worldwide.

30 new projects have bagged £365m of funding for new aerospace technologies through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). One project is the £1m Flexible Robotic Machining in High Accuracy Applications project with the AMRC that is set to bring the benefits of high-accuracy robotic machining to the aerospace sector.

The project will give the UK the most accurate large volume envelope robot in the world. The robot will be at the heart of Factory 2050, the revolutionary, glass-walled "reconfigurable factory" recently opened on the University's new advanced manufacturing campus on Sheffield Business Park, just over the Parkway.

Gary Elliott, chief executive of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said: "This is the largest batch of ATI projects to be launched since operations started three years ago. It moves UK aerospace towards delivering the next generation of quiet and low emission aircraft, whilst also tackling immediate manufacturing challenges. The participants are a who's who of global aerospace, as well as the UK supply chain and research base – a powerful demonstration of the strength of UK innovation."

Announcing the funding at the Farnborough Air Show, the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) also updated the sector on the industrial strategy for UK aerospace. The AGP has transformed the way in which industry and Government work together to secure the long-term future of one of the UK's most important sectors.

The Government committed to creating the partnership, which provides a single, national focus for technology research and facilities in the sector. £3.9 billion of funding has been provided by Government and industry to support the strategy with the creation of the ATI at its heart.

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A key feature of the strategy is industry's Supply Chain Competitiveness Charter signed by the sector's leading civil aerospace manufacturers, including Airbus, Spirit Aerosystems, Rolls-Royce, UTC Aerospace Systems, and Boeing - all members of The AMRC. The charter will strengthen relationships between the large companies and their suppliers, working together to raise productivity and competitiveness.

The strategy's section on the High Value Manufacturing Catapult includes the case study of Sheffield's Technicut and Rotherham's Nikken and their work with The AMRC.

Tooling company Technicut found its revolutionary titanium cutting tool too powerful for existing machine tool systems. It commissioned Nikken to research, develop and test the TiTan X-Treme Multi-Lock. The patented X-Treme was adopted by Rolls-Royce and the AMRC (part of the HVM Catapult), achieving a 50% reduction in time required to machine fan discs. It's now deployed at major titanium machine workshops worldwide to cut aerospace-grade titanium 6-4 alloy at super-fast rates.

Rolls-Royce has now established a £100m advanced aerospace disc manufacturing facility in Washington, County Durham and Japanese owned Nikken have now invested in a European R&D centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

The report states: "This is an outstanding example of "sticky technology" – an SME winning global recognition, major inward R&D investment and an important new British manufacturing facility."
The strategy also highlights the success of the MAXIMAL project. Here Safran Landing Systems was awarded an Innovate UK Grant in 2014 for a two year project in partnership with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry and the AMRC in Rotherham, aiming at developing key manufacturing technologies to Technology Readiness Level 6 and become a worldwide centre of excellence for titanium machining.

One of the key technologies developed has been around new cutting tools and new machining strategies for the finishing operation of large high strength titanium components for landing gears. The results of this successful activity were a significant reduction of manufacturing time, the technology being implemented on the shop floor mid-2016.

AMRC website

Images: Safran/ Nikken

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