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Fokker and NLR Open High-tech ‘Pilot Plant’ for Composite Components

07 April 2015

Fokker and NLR Open High-tech ‘Pilot Plant’ for Composite Components

Fokker and the National Aerospace Laboratory have opened a manufacturing plant for composite aircraft components in Marknesse, Netherlands.

The plant will produce composite landing gear components while also developing new manufacturing techniques for high performance composites, and Fokker explains that it contains one of the largest robotic composite fibre braiding machines in Europe. Other high-tech companies that develop composites can also use the facility for testing their materials and automating production processes.

According to Fokker, the new ‘Automated Composite Manufacturing Pilot Plant’ is widely regarded as a key step in developing expert knowledge of composites in the Netherlands. It says that composites are increasingly replacing steel or aluminium parts in the aviation industry; moreover, composites are often stronger, more sustainable, less expensive, and capable of being applied in a wide variety of areas.

The ACM Pilot Plant will start with the further robotification of the production of composite landing gear components. In a wider context, the plant will focus on producing composites reinforced with industrial resins, for which the plant is outfitted with ultra-modern equipment, including one of the largest robotic composite fibre braiding machines in Europe.

Fokker also explains that the ACM Pilot Plant is open to other companies that want to produce their composites on a large scale, including companies that are active outside the aviation sector. The unique knowledge and facilities available in Marknesse are ideally suited for developing the most (cost-) efficient manufacturing methods. It is often precisely this last step - between a prototype and launching the product - that proves so difficult in bringing innovations to market.

This new facility derives from a Public-Private Partnership between Fokker Landing Gear and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), in close collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the province of Flevoland and the Noordoostpolder municipality. This Pilot Plant is the embodiment of the ‘golden triangle’ between government, industry and knowledge institutions. The ACM Pilot Plant is part of Smart Industry Fieldlab Flexible Manufacturing’, for which plans for further development are currently being devised.

At the Pilot Plant - which covers an area of some 500m2 - highly skilled automation experts and operators are engaged in automating, optimising and rendering sustainable the manufacturing processes.

Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink, CEO of FME and initiator of Smart Industry, officially opened the Pilot Plant. The opening of this manufacturing plant is a crowning jewel in Fokker and NLR’s years of collaboration. Frank Mulders, Managing Director of Fokker Landing Gear, views the plant as the culmination of many years of successful collaboration in process innovation between Fokker, NLR, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, RNLAF (Dutch Airforce), regional governments and knowledge institutes.

Mulders says “This automated pilot plant works on state-of-the art production processes. For Fokker, as a supplier to the global aviation industry, and also for other Dutch companies, this is an important step on the way to the sustainable production of composite components in the Netherlands.”

The National Aerospace Laboratory regards the ACM Pilot Plant as a logical next step in the collaboration between science and technology, private companies and the government, for the purpose of bolstering the Netherlands’ strengths in innovation. CEO Michel Peters states that the Netherlands holds a leading position internationally in the development and application of composite materials in the aviation industry. “The Pilot Plant that we have opened today in Flevoland further establishes us on the map as an international centre for composites. It is the physical proof that institutes for applied research, such as NLR, can bolster the innovative strength of Dutch industry and SMEs and do this together with government and industry.”

Jan-Nico Appelman, Deputy of the Province of Flevoland, is also pleased with the new plant. “In recent years the province has created an investment climate for Flevoland. One can find office spaces in business parks everywhere, but here in Flevoland, around the NLR’s already established Field Lab, companies also find a unique combination of theory and practice. This new plant with Fokker makes it all the more interesting for companies that produce composites.“

Photo provided by NLR.






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