ATI aims to keep UK at the forefront of wing tech innovation

Posted on 4 Jun 2015 by Jonny Williamson

Last April, thirteen partners from various backgrounds came together to work on a £30 million project funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to develop futuristic wing technologies.

The two-year VIEWs project (Validation and Integration of Manufacturing Enablers for Future Wing Structures) aims to bring promising wing design manufacture and assembly technologies near to market readiness, while selecting some novel technologies for further development.

The project emerged from the STeM (Structures Technology Maturity) research programme which identified processes that could reduce the cost of manufacture and assembly of a typical composite box structure by 20%.

The work of the VIEWS programme will span manufacturing and assembly process including:

  • Identifying and defining future manufacturing requirements to produce novel wing architectures,
  • Assessing tools that will improve product and process design and enhance the flow of production,
  • Progressing a variety of emerging composite and metallic manufacturing and assembly technologies and processes,
  • Studying innovative inspection and repair tools.

In the final stages, the partner companies will produce test demonstrators to validate the maturity of key technologies.

The VIEWs team includes four industrial partners:

  • GKN Aerospace,
  • Bombardier Aerospace,
  • Spirit Aerosystems,
  • GE Aviation.

Five UK-based Catapult Centres:

  • The National Composites Centre,
  • The Manufacturing Technology Centre,
  • The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre,
  • Yhe Warwick Manufacturing Group,
  • The Advanced Forming Research Centre.

Four universities:

  • University of Nottingham,
  • Bath,
  • Bristol,
  • Sheffield Hallam.

With 15 months left to go, project leader Richard Coakley from GKN Aerospace, is confident that the project is heading in a positive direction: “With the project being on a large scale there’s many facets to it, however, we can say that many of the projects are already at trial stage and are looking promising.”

One of the projects that VIEWs is working on is automated assembly. VIEWs are looking to develop robotics drilling and automated fastening to wing manufacturing.

“We’re confident that the project will reach technology readiness of TLR6, which is the stage where companies test a prototype in a high-fidelity laboratory environment or in a simulated operational environment, by the time the VIEWs ATI funding programme is complete – all with the ultimate aim of the technology being ready by within the next 3-5 years.”

Coakley explained: “This long term project is vital for the UK. Most companies design products in the UK and look to other countries for manufacturing. However, with VIEWs the project is entirely UK based and has the capability to create jobs in the country.”

Simon Weeks, ATI’s chief technology officer, added: “The STeM collaborative R&T programme, managed by GKN Aerospace demonstrated the very best in terms of innovation and promise for the future.

“Investing in this kind of research is exactly what the ATI exists for. Our unique position enables us to support the development of the best technologies with the industry for greater competitiveness.”