Safran Invests in Polytechnique Montréal

07 January 2014

Polytechnique Montréal, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Safran are inaugurating the NSERC-Safran Industrial Research Chair on Novel 3D Composite Materials for the Aerospace Industry.

This chair is said to be benefitting from investments totalling more than $2.4 million and from the research infrastructure provided over the last few years by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Québec and other partners. Polytechnique Montréal explains it will be one of the first universities in the world to build a large-scale 3D composite laboratory for the aerospace industry, state-of-the-art equipment representing a total investment of $5.4 million.

“Canada's aerospace and space industries contribute over 170,000 jobs and more than $27 billion annually to the Canadian economy,” said the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry. “This industrial research chair will help develop innovative solutions for the aerospace industry, while providing assistance for training highly qualified personnel. Our government supports Canadian businesses so they can continue to compete internationally and be global leaders.”

According to Polytechnique Montréal, composite materials now occupy a key place in the aerospace industry. Their use has spread to aircraft structures, whether for the fuselage— as in that of the Boeing 787—or for the wings, such as those of the Airbus A350 or the Bombardier CSeries. It explains that the use of innovative 3D materials in the aerospace industry nevertheless poses significant challenges, because these materials must be resistant to impact, fatigue and, in some cases, temperatures exceeding 1,200 degrees Celsius. Not to mention the requirement to certify rotating parts to zero defects.

To meet these challenges, the NSERC-Safran Industrial Research Chair on Novel 3D Composite Materials for the Aerospace Industry, held by Professor Edu Ruiz, is undertaking research work at Polytechnique. “We will cover the full development of new solutions destined for the aerospace industry: we will work on both the creation of 3D composite nanomaterials and the development of new manufacturing processes for large structures,” Professor Ruiz says. “We will then use these innovations to build industrial-scale prototypes. This approach is fairly unique in our field of research. As well, our partnership with the Safran group, a world leader in aerospace, will enable us to develop scientific solutions that address the concerns and challenges of the high-end products industry.”

“Snecma and Polytechnique began their work together in 1992, but since 2006, Polytechnique Montréal has been working closely with Safran to study the implementation of structural parts for new aeronautics engines,” says Ludovic Molliex, Vice-President, Materials and Processes, for Safran. “Our collaboration with Polytechnique intensified in 2010 when we announced a $6-million investment over 10 years to accelerate research with a view to mastering new manufacturing processes for structural composites reinforced by three-dimensional carbon fibre fabrics. The Polyflex process offers a very attractive alternative to existing processes such as RTM or resin infusion, among others for large-scale parts. The application projects we have undertaken with researchers at Polytechnique Montréal are yielding very promising results.”

For her part, Janet Walden, Chief Operating Officer of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, notes “NSERC's Industrial Research Chairholders, such as Dr. Ruiz, share a unique blend of qualities – they strive for excellence in research, provide a rich learning environment for their students, and are able to build and nurture productive, successful relationships with their industrial partners, applying fundamental research to address industry R&D needs. Dr. Ruiz's work with Safran will position Canada as a global leader in composite materials research, helping the aerospace industry make planes lighter.”

“This partnership with Safran will help us train the best recruits in the world,” says Christophe Guy, Chief Executive Officer of Polytechnique Montréal. “The training of highly qualified staff specializing in manufacturing composites is a critical issue not only for the aeronautics industry, but also for many other sectors, such as ground transport, renewable energy and civil engineering infrastructures. This is an invaluable asset for Canadian industry.”

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