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The UK’s National Composites Centre (NCC) has used its multi-million pound, twin headed, robotic, Automatic Fibre Placement (AFP) machine for the first time.
According to NCC, this initial use of the machine was by NCC member, GKN Aerospace, as part of a UK funded and Airbus led research programme focused on the next generation of super-efficient aircraft wings.
NCC explains that the new AFP machine offers the wider UK industry its first opportunity to consistently and rapidly create complex, double curved structures in composite materials. This means the many qualities of these materials – light weight, high strength, flexibility and lack of corrosion – can realistically be applied, for the first time, to structures such as high performance wing shapes and automotive parts.
NCC Chief Executive Peter Chivers said “It is great to see this cutting edge machine on site and in use, with commissioning complete. The AFP is one of the NCC’s flagship assets and is already attracting significant interest. This first project is an important illustration of the typical opportunity that the NCC provides. We are a great place for companies to work together accessing the latest equipment and drawing on the skills and knowledge of the NCC’s own team of highly qualified and experienced research engineers to add value to the member companies’ own specialist teams.”
Airbus UK Head of R&T Business Development and Partnerships, Colin Sirett, said “With an order backlog of over 4,400 aircraft and a projected growth of air travel demand of 45 percent over the next 10 years, research into high volume and low cost manufacturing is essential for Airbus to meet the future market needs. As part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres, the NCC provides a powerful partner to develop the necessary technologies.”
Rich Oldfield, Technical Director, GKN Aerospace commented “The effectiveness of rapid material deposition techniques such as this AFP technology will be critical if the UK is to lead in achieving the fast, accurate manufacturing turnaround necessary to meet escalating future market demand.”
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