Tuesday, August 15, 2017

News: Rolls-Royce's university partnership stronger than ever

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The University of Sheffield continues to address challenges in partnership with Rolls-Royce, not least at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

The institution has a long-standing relationship with the global name in engineering and continues to develop novel solutions to industry challenges through collaborative research and an active apprenticeship, internship and graduate programme.

Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: "This university has had a long, long connection with Rolls-Royce - the premier engineering company of the United Kingdom. We are really proud of the research that we do, and the development of all sorts of important things that go into the products that Rolls-Royce makes that we are so proud of.

"It's not just about the research - it's the students that we train, our staff who work in collaboration, and of course in recent years the development of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). We're really excited about the future because Rolls-Royce is going to be doing some of the most important things for the United Kingdom."

Rolls-Royce is a key member of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Nuclear AMRC, both of which have state of the art facilities on the AMP. The Derby firm itself joined them on the park when it opened the most advanced turbine blade casting facility in the world in 2014. The £110m, 150,000 sq ft facility employs around 150 people and has the capacity to manufacture more than 100,000 single crystal turbine blades a year.

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Another project came to fruition when tooling company Technicut found its revolutionary titanium cutting tool too powerful for existing machine tool systems. It commissioned Nikken to develop the patented "X-Treme" setup with Rolls-Royce and the AMRC which helped to achieve a 50% reduction in time required to machine fan discs. Rolls-Royce went on to establish a £100m advanced aerospace disc manufacturing facility in Washington, County Durham and Japanese owned Nikken invested in a European R&D centre on the AMP.

Using additive layer manufacturing (ALM), Rolls-Royce worked alongside the Uiversity's Department of Materials Science and Engineering to construct a 1.5m-diamenter titanium front bearing housing (FBH) which is held inside a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engine. The construction of the bearing marked the first time ALM had been used to produce such a significant load bearing component, rather than the conventional processes of casting or forging.

Iain Todd, Professor of Metallurgy, the University of Sheffield, said: "We were approached in 2007, right at the start of additive manufacturing in metals, and were asked to make some small sections of components for Rolls-Royce. We were originally involved just to see if the technology had an application in engine development programmes and we ended up being involved in the actual manufacture of components to go in flight or ground test."

Last year saw £20m in Government funding secured for the creation of the MAPP Hub in Sheffield - Manufacture using Advanced Powder Processes. Unsurprisingly, Rolls-Royce is involved in a number of projects; looking at how additive technologies can be used to repair high value manufactured components; designing, manufacturing and testing new alloys ready for implementation into industry; and combining alloys with composites and steels to create lighter aerospace and automotive components.

Famed for its in-house apprenticeship programme, Rolls-Royce has been sending trainees to the AMRC Training Centre since it opened on the AMP in 2014. The £20.5m centre was established to train the next generation of world leading engineers where apprentices have opportunities to progress on to postgraduate courses, doctorates and MBA levels.

Jack Smith, a technical apprentice sponsored by Rolls-Royce, said: "As well as working on the factory floor, we also get a theoretical side, to help us develop better as a person. Not only do I get to work alongside staff who have got tens of years of experience in engineering, I also work with some of the most advanced technology we've got in the aerospace sector at this moment in time, which is absolutely fantastic for someone my age and something I really enjoy."

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"Some of the most important things for the United Kingdom" include the key nuclear sector. Burnett added: "If you you look at some of the things that it [Rolls-Royce] is doing in nuclear, for example, I am really excited about the possibilities of new types of nuclear power plant for the United Kingdom. We are going to have a wonderful time building these exciting products for Rolls-Royce, training the people that they work with and being really proud of such a fabulous British company."

The Nuclear AMRC continues to work with Rolls-Royce and its industry partners to bring its proposed small modular reactor (SMR) to market in the UK.

SMRs promise to be much more affordable in the UK than the large scale reactors planned for projects like Hinkley Point C. Rolls-Royce called on experts at the Nuclear AMRC to carry out desktop studies on potential methods of manufacture its new SMR design, and carry out an assessment of the UK supply chain's capabilities to make the reactor to the required standards.

Rolls-Royce acquired large parcels of land on the AMP in Rotherham for manufacturing facilities. The £110m Advanced Blade Casting Facility is operational but approved plans for a manufacturing facility for large scale nuclear components stalled as the interest in new large scale nuclear power stations cooled.

The firm has said that SMRs could be made in centralised manufacturing facilities and then transported to anywhere in the country or overseas, producing benefits of scale which would drive down costs. Rolls-Royce is developing a patented modular concept which is designed specifically for factory manufacture and commissioning, speed of installation and reduced onsite construction work.

Rolls-Royce website
AMRC website

Images: University of Sheffield


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