division is spearheading a three-year development programme to improve wing
manufacturing processes, particularly with composite technology, in order to
protect the country’s aeronautical industry.
Next Generation Composite Wing is a £103 million ($200 million) scheme which
features 16 other companies including Bombardier Aerospace, GE Aviation,
Goodrich, GKN, Messier-Dowty
and Spirit AeroSystems.
to ATI at an event in London today to detail the programme, UK
secretary of state for innovation John Denham said that the programme was part
of a collaborative effort to co-ordinate regional technology investment at a
describes the project as “absolutely central” to achieving the aim of
positioning the UK
as a centre of innovative aerospace capabilities.
Government-initiated Technology Strategy Board, a business-led public
organisation set up to support research, is contributing £25 million to the
programme. Another £26 million will come from regional development agencies.
and the other industrial partners will provide the other £52 million. During
the event today Airbus executive vice-president for programmes Tom Williams
told ATI that he thought the UK had
“some ground to make up” against other countries – not just in Europe but in
Asia and North America – in order to ensure it could stay competitive in
says the programme will concentrate on developing efficient manufacturing
processes for available composites. “The focus is not to invest in new science
and new materials,” he says. “The question will be – with a next-generation
aircraft – how do you [apply composites] in an industrialised way?”
points out that such manufacturing processes would potentially have to support
production of an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 replacement at the rate of 40
aircraft per month.
want to do that economically. We’d have to ensure that we could work the
ramp-up,” says Williams. “What’s the combination of materials, processes and
tooling that would let us do it? The problem is that we have lots of ideas – by
2010 we need to hone these down.”
UK manufacturer GKN, which
is planning to acquire Airbus’ UK
wing-design plant at Filton,
says it expects composites to account for 60% of the bare-structure weight of a
future 150-seat aircraft.
says its involvement in the Next Generation Composite Wing programme will
involve studying optimised factory layouts for high-rate production. It will
also look at new developments in composite tooling and coatings to extend
view this research as a key enabling programme, taking the UK
capability in the vital area of wing manufacture forwards significantly,” says
GKN Aerospace senior vice-president of business development Frank Bamford.
adds that the programme will build on work performed under the European Union’s
‘Advanced Low-Cost Aircraft Structures’ and ‘Integrated Wing’ initiatives.
Strategy Board chief executive Ian Gray states that one of the organisation’s
main aims is to invest in high-value manufacturing technologies to benefit UK
industry. He adds: “I want to ensure that we get from
this programme what we’ve said we’re going to get.”
participants in the new wing programme include Advanced Composite Group,
Aircraft Research Association, Atkins, Delmia
UK, Eaton Aerospace, GE Digital Systems, Hyde Group, KuKa Automation, Qinetiq and Morgan Professional Services.