A new consortium of UK companies is being led by GKN Aerospace in a three and a half year year £13.4 million research and development programme called Horizon (AM).
The Horizon (AM) programme builds on GKN Aerospace’s extensive and fast-developing Additive Manufacturing capability and also includes Renishaw, Delcam, and the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick. The programme is backed by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).
Horizon (AM) will take a number of promising Additive Manufacturing (AM) techniques from research and development through to viable production processes able to create components that could be as much as 50% lighter than their conventional counterparts, with complex geometries that cannot be cost effectively manufactured today.
These new processes, it is stated, will unlock innovations in low drag, high-performance wing designs and lighter, even more efficient engine systems and lead to dramatic reductions in aircraft fuel consumption and emissions.
The programme will focus initially on using AM techniques to create near net shape parts which require very little machining. This will dramatically improve the ‘buy to fly’ ratio of the part by reducing the considerable cost in time and material wastage associated with the conventional machining of metal forgings. With material wastage as high as 90% for some parts, a significant reduction here will also provide major environmental benefits.
Announcing the UK Government’s funding, UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stated, “I want to ensure the UK remains at the cutting edge of aerospace innovation, which is why I am pleased to announce that we are investing £154 million for research to explore new technologies like the 3D printing of plane parts and creating lighter, greener aircraft.”
Rich Oldfield, Technical Director, GKN Aerospace stated, “AM incorporates a range of hugely promising manufacturing technologies that the UK aerospace sector must fully understand and exploit if it is to retain its position as the largest national aerospace industry outside the USA. This strong consortium has the expertise and understanding to continue the process of industrialising these technologies for use in both current programme updates and next-generation aircraft.”
Robin Weston, Marketing Manager for Renishaw’s Additive Manufacturing Products Division commented, “Renishaw has long recognised the potential of Additive Manufacturing to make a very positive impact on the way things are made. Horizon AM is an exciting opportunity to work closely with the world’s leading engineers to ensure that AM will stand up to the rigours and demands of the manufacturing industry.”