• New Chair will advance manufacture of aerospace composites
GKN Aerospace is sponsoring a five year Royal Academy of Engineering (RA Eng.) research chair, based at the University of Bath. The Royal Academy of Engineering/ GKN Aerospace Chair in Composites Analysis represents a combined investment by the University, the Royal Academy of Engineering and GKN Aerospace. It aims to develop a suite of analytical methods to optimize the efficient use of fibre-reinforced composite material, with the goal of improving the quality, performance and speed of production of high-value composite structures – such as those used in aerospace.
Professor Richard Butler, who leads a team of researchers at the University, has been nominated for the new chair. Professor Butler has a track record in the analysis and optimisation of aerospace composites. He also has an established relationship with GKN Aerospace, having undertaken an RA Eng industrial secondment with the company in 2011. At that time Professor Butler supported a number of the company’s composite research and development projects, including work to develop novel manufacturing processes to produce a large aircraft wing spar; and creation of an ultra-efficient ‘laminar-flow’ wing design. The continuation of these activities now forms the basis of the new research chair’s work.
Rich Oldfield, Technical Director, GKN Aerospace explains: “The advantages of composite structures are thoroughly proven. However, there remains much to gain from improving production processes to increase the speed and consistency of manufacture and to reduce production and material costs. The work of this research chair at Bath University will be of critical importance to the future success of the UK composites industry – as well as to the long term market position of GKN Aerospace. The results we achieve will strengthen the UK’s broad industrial research landscape through the involvement of the National Composites Centre and a variety of UK-based academic networks.”
Professor Butler believes X-ray CT imaging will help analyse the impact of any tiny defects in new ultra-efficient composites.