Aerospace Technology Centre Officially Opens in Canada

14 October 2005

The Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Centre (AMTC) in Canada held its official opening event to mark the beginning of a new initiative aiming to develop Canadian manufacturing technologies using composites.

The Centre, which is one of five laboratories at the NRC Institute for Aerospace Research (NRC Aerospace), was recently officially opened as a new initiative resulting from a partnership between the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Canada Economic Development for Québec regions.

The new Montreal based $46.5-million research centre is primarily targeting the Canadian aerospace industry in the hope of improving manufacturing technologies and processes in order to complete with the global aerospace industry. The Centre’s R&D activities will hopefully mobilise existing facilities and programs at NRC Aerospace and at other related NRC institutes and programs across Canada to help industry implement advanced, cost-effective, manufacturing methods for aerospace. A major focus is to facilitate the transition to next-generation manufacturing, particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Centre accommodates approximately 100 people (including staff and guest workers from industry and universities) who investigate technologies in four major research areas:

forming and joining of metallic products
fabrication and joining of composite structures
automation, robotics and intelligent manufacturing systems, and
advanced material removal.

Studies are underway to improve liquid composite moulding technologies through use of flexible tooling and to advance thermoset composites production through the application of automation and online cure monitoring. Other investigations include use of automated fibre placement in aircraft component manufacturing, and development of new joining technologies for composite materials, such as resistance welding of thermoplastic composites.

The AMTC has expertise and facilities for projects in automation, robotics, and intelligent manufacturing systems. A large gantry system equipped with two multi-axial industrial robots enables development of automated systems for assembling aircraft structures. Intelligent surface treatment and automated surface finishing technologies are also investigated. Modelling and simulation capabilities support these activities.

The AMTC develops high-performance, high-speed machining technologies to facilitate production of high-complexity parts, thin-walled structures, and aerospace materials. These include laser and vibration assisted machining, super-abrasive grinding, dry machining, and machining under minimum quantity lubrication. Other work is carried out to enhance machine tool accuracy and cutting tool performance as well as optimize machine processes.

Major facilities include:
a 500-ton isothermal forging press
a 1000-ton hydroforming press
Nd-YAG and CO2 laser, electron beam, friction stir and linear friction welding machines
fibre placement machinery
a 20' x 6' high temperature autoclave with a clean room
resin transfer moulding equipment
a 20' x 20' x 20' gantry with 2 multi-axial Kuka robots for automated assembly/riveting intelligent shot peening equipment
a 5-axis Makino multi-tasking machining center
a 6-axis Boehringer two-spindle turning centre, and
an online coordinate measuring machine.

One project that is currently in process is a collaborative project with Bell Helicopter Textron Canada and Delastek, a Canadian SME, to develop resin transfer moulding as a low-cost alternative manufacturing process and use it to fabricate the rib chords for a large composite wing box structure.

NRC Aerospace developed a modular mould for the component and worked out preform and processing parameters (injection), then manufactured the part and evaluated its properties. The advantage of using a modular mould is that it cuts down on machining because different parts of the mould can be used for different applications. On completion of the project, the technology will be transferred to Delastek, who will manufacture the part for Bell Helicopter.

The image shows a composite helicopter rib chord manufactured by the Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Centre using RTM.

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