MTC helps aerospace manufacturers develop new techniques

Posted on 29 May 2015 by Jonny Williamson

The Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry is working with aerospace companies to develop new manufacturing techniques which aim to preserve engineering jobs across the sector.

The work is part of a national programme funded by the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP) aimed at encouraging a culture of innovation in the aerospace sector and ensuring it remains a world leader.

The programme links the MTC’s engineers with aerospace companies to encourage the advanced manufacturing techniques necessary to develop the next generations of aero-engines and aircraft.

In one project under the NATEP programme the MTC’s engineers are working with Coventry-based precision engineering firm Arrowsmith.

Led by managing director Jason Aldridge the Arrowsmith team has been working with the MTC and the Coventry and Warwickshire Aerospace Forum to develop new aerospace thread-rolling processes – a cold forging process which can be performed on any ductile metal to produce smooth and precise threads.

Aldridge commented: “Most of the research is being done in our own workshop, and the MTC engineers have been working alongside our team. As a result, we will be manufacturing components that could previously not be made, and we’ll be using precision controlled production techniques that keep quality high and costs down.

The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) at Ansty Park, Coventry.
The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) at Ansty Park, Coventry.

“As an SME, it’s often difficult to embrace a culture of R&D, but I believe there’s a massive market opportunity if it can be achieved. Government and European funding is often seen as something which is too time-consuming to apply for, and too bureaucratic.

“NATEP, funded by the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI), has been a completely different experience. The NATEP technology managers from Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA), have helped us pull the project together, and worked with us to set criteria, ensure our paperwork was correct, identify what we needed, and helped us find it. They didn’t push us.”

MTC chief executive Dr Clive Hickman said it was important that supply chain companies were capable of keeping up with the major players in aerospace as technology advanced: “Aerospace is an industry which is developing rapidly and advanced solutions are needed.

“The NATEP project will help companies improve the quality of their R&D and the capabilities of their engineers. When the MTC’s new Aerospace Research Centre comes on stream later this year we will have even more capabilities to help prime manufacturers and SMEs develop together.”

NATEP technology manager for the Midlands, Peter Knight, said: “The advanced manufacturing techniques being developed through this project have enormous potential in the global marketplace.

“It’s exciting to see that NATEP is helping Arrowsmith to reposition itself in the market, align its culture with that of its end customer, safeguard jobs and develop a centre of excellence here in the Midlands. It’s so important that we support small manufacturers as they bring innovative technologies to the skies, so we can maintain the UK supply chain’s standing as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world.”