Additive manufacturing to redefine aircraft wings

The strategy has been developed by the ATI in consultation with more than 150 senior personnel from industry, academia and government.

Renishaw is contributing its additive manufacturing expertise to a new £17.7m project to develop an innovative way of designing and manufacturing aircraft wings, which will encourage a “right first time approach” and reduce development time.

Renishaw will provide its expertise in metal additive manufacturing and precision measurement to a project that will be led by a team from Airbus in Bristol, a global centre of excellence for wing design, development and testing.

Airbus A380 wing manufacture
Approximately 100,000 jobs are supported in the UK by Airbus wing manufacture.

More than 30,000 new aircraft are expected to be required in the next 15-20 years, replacing existing in-service models and also to expand airlines’ fleets as the number of air travellers increases.

The project, called Wing Design Methodology Validation – or WINDY – has been made possible thanks to joint industry and UK government investment from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

Announced as number of projects by BEIS during the recent Farnborough International Airshow, WINDY will look at aerodynamic modelling of wings, the potential for use of complex 3D printed components in wing structures, and the possibility of innovative loads control on aircraft for better efficiency in flight.

Airbus chief operating officer, Tom Williams explained: “Aircraft wing design is a hugely complicated process and this project will look at ways we can increase the robustness of the design and test process while also reducing the time this takes.

“Developing state-of-the-art technology will be at the heart of achieving these improvements and this investment is vital for that.”

Renishaw’s head of Global Additive Manufacturing, Clive Martell commented: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work with Airbus and other project partners to develop processes that will fully test the capabilities of additive manufacturing.

“If we can highlight the design and production benefits of this technology in one of the most demanding industry sectors, then it paves the way for greater of adoption of additive manufacturing for serialised production in many other applications.”

Chief technology officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute, Simon Weeks noted: “One of the key aims of the ATI’s UK national aerospace strategy is to sustain and grow the UK’s global leadership in aircraft wings.

“The WINDY project is a key element of this aim, securing essential wing design and integration capabilities in the UK and opening the way to innovative 3D printed wing components. These will lead to lighter and more efficient wings, which will be needed for future generations of greener airliners.”

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