One of Britain’s most important attempts to reduce aviation carbon emissions is in the suburbs of Bristol, shaped in a new box-shaped building that looks like an IKEA warehouse, rather than an airfield or lab. Is to be done.
A little further away from where Concorde made its first British flight, engineers are experimenting with new types of materials, such as composites and enhanced automation, into wings and other aircraft structures.
At one end of the factory, the pride lies in the blue-gray 17-meter-long multi-layer composite strip. This will be the backbone of one of three new prototypes that European airplane maker Airbus calls the Wing of Tomorrow program.
The new £ 32m Technology Center is owned by GKN Aerospace, part of Melrose Industries, an acquisition specialist for the FTSE 100. The main focus of this government-funded center is to decarbonize the industry and maintain the UK’s leading role in wing technology, one of the most important and profitable parts of aircraft manufacturing. Is to do.
While several other sectors, such as the automotive sector, have already taken significant steps towards a net zero emissions target, the long lead times for building new aircraft mean slow change.
Manufacture of lighter and stronger wing structures is sustainable aviation fuel, battery power, and hydrogen, To help the industry reduce its emissions.
“This is about breakthrough technology for the future of flight to make aircraft more sustainable …. This center here actually maintains the UK’s leadership in wing technology. “We are,” said Peter Dilnot, Chief Operating Officer of Melrose.
The work of Airbus’ Wing of Tomorrow program is partially funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which allocates state funding to innovation in this sector.
Future funding, including ATI, from the government was important for Britain to maintain its leading position in wing manufacturing, according to Dilnot. “We’re still in a strong position, but we need continuous funding to stay in that position. You can’t tap on or off this kind of thing,” he said. Added.
At the Technology Center, GKN and more than 20 partners are working on a variety of projects, including hydrogen propulsion systems for small aircraft and wings for all-electric aircraft.
One of the main challenges in designing new wings is to make production more efficient. Chris Everett, Senior Vice President of GKN Aerospace, says the new process has reduced waste by 25% and energy consumption by 80% compared to today’s traditional composite manufacturing.
Another notable difference is that unlike previous spar, the three prototypes GKN is building for the Wing of Tomorrow program are not a collection of sections, but a single component. It means that there is. Each piece is made up of over 30 layers of composite material. According to Dilnot, the technical challenge for the industry is to speed up its layering process.
Airbus claims that the Wing of Tomorrow is focused on testing technology and composites with certain new aircraft in mind, but analysts have updated the company’s best-selling A320 aircraft with a new lightweight wing. I think it can be deployed in a version.
Such a move could give European manufacturers a new, more efficient aircraft to undertake Archrival Boeing when using new medium-sized jets.
“One of the potential applications of Wing of Tomorrow has been recognized for several years as the next derivative of the A320neo family,” said Sash Tusa, an analyst at Agency Partners.
“Stretching the A321neo … could be an immediate response to Boeing’s mid-market program,” he added. Not as good as a brand new aircraft, but development will be “at least three years faster.”
The Bristol Center represents the future of GKN’s aerospace business, but as the aviation industry recovers from the pandemic, the company’s immediate focus is on improving its core business. Dilnot said the entire civil aviation industry is expected to return from 80% to 90% of 2019 levels by 2024.
Acquired by Melrose in a hostile takeover of £ 8 billion in 2018, GKN’s business spans the aerospace, automotive and powder metallurgy sectors. With a strategy of buying, improving and selling, Melrose is rebuilding all three divisions.
Earlier this month, the company warned that supply chain problems and a global chip shortage were damaging transactions in the automotive and powder metallurgy businesses.
Once the restructuring is complete, future plans for GKN Aerospace may include acquisitions, Dilnot said.
“Our main focus is to continue to improve our core business, especially as civil aerospace recovers. However, we like aerospace and our business is asset improvement. There are many opportunities .. .. To improve the business that matches our model, “he said.
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