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Dream team to make UK a global competitor in aerospace

14 June 2018

A team of engineers are working together at the University of Sheffield to drive forward cutting edge capabilities for manufacturing composite components in ways not currently available in the supply chain.

The newly formed Advanced Textile Composites team consists of Prasad Potluri, Professor of Robotics and Textile Composites at the University of Manchester, and Chris McHugh, who has joined the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Composite Centre with decades of textile experience under his belt having previously worked for James Dewhurst, NWTexnet and Sigmatex. They will be joined by Richard Scaife, Head of the AMRC Composite Centre; Hannah Tew, Partnership Lead at the AMRC Composite Centre; and Dr Hassan EL-Dessouky, a senior research fellow with the AMRC.

Hannah, who will be presenting at the Composites Innovation conference later this month, said the team will be the driving force behind relevant capabilities coming to the Composite Centre that will be used by the AMRC and its industrial partners to bolster the UK’s position as a world leader for composites and aerospace.

She said: “We have pulled together a team of the country’s leading engineers and textile engineers to develop complex composite architectures that will secure jobs and address future opportunities within the supply chain for advanced composite applications such as aerospace and automotive.

“We have cutting edge equipment coming here and the team to drive it forward.”

The AMRC won funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute to purchase a raft of new state-of-the-art equipment for the Composite Centre which includes a braiding system, Jacquard loom, through-thickness permeability testing, tailored fibre placement, a high temperature-high tension filament winder, tow-spreading machine and robotic end effectors for automated handling. The new kit will be used not only to manufacture preforms but also to develop the enabling technology for commercialisation including joining, automation and impregnation.

Composite materials are increasingly being used in aerospace to make aircraft lighter and more environmentally-friendly and there are huge opportunities to adopt composites in many other industries in order to reap economic and environmental benefits.

The research undertaken with this equipment by the AMRC is expected to bring down the cost of complex composite components, making it easier for aerospace and other industries to adopt the light-weight solution and help UK manufacturers to secure a larger share of the lucrative and rapidly-expanding aerospace and composite markets. 

Hannah said the Advanced Textile Composites team will be working to develop these capabilities to produce composite components in ways not currently available in the supply chain from composite suppliers – improving the fit of the UK composites supply chain to the needs of the global aerospace and automotive markets and growing the economy through expansion in these sectors with composite materials and multimaterial solutions, tooling, and advanced manufacturing – helping position the country as Europe’s number one aerospace and automotive manufacturer.

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