Smart Manufacturing Lab Launched To Develop Future Aerospace Manufacturing Technologies

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), British power systems technology company Rolls-Royce, and Singapore Aero Engine Services Private Limited (SAESL), will invest up to S$60 million (US$45 million) to set up a Joint Lab to develop Smart Manufacturing technologies.

The joint lab is a five-year collaboration program and will develop next-generation aerospace manufacturing, as well as Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) capabilities enabled by advanced processes, automation and digital technologies.

The A*STAR research institutes supporting this joint lab with relevant capabilities are the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), as well as the National Metrology Centre (NMC).

The programme comprises five main themes:

  • Smart Assembly Systems – Application of intelligent automation across processes such as module assembly, alignment, functional testing and inspection;
  • Integrated Remanufacturing Technologies – Advanced repair and remanufacturing methods including automation, laser metal deposition, adaptive technology, and smart inspection technology;
  • Advanced Fan Blade Manufacturing – Automation of the fan blade value chain to enable higher productivity and improved right-first-time performance;
  • Future Manufacturing Processes – Development of advanced processes such as Additive Layer Manufacturing, robotics and surface conditioning; and
  • Knowledge-based Manufacturing – Use of digital (Industry 4.0) methods to improve quality, cost and delivery performance at process, factory and enterprise levels.

The program will leverage ARTC’s Model Factory, as well as A*STAR’s other relevant capabilities to test-bed new technology applications for the aerospace industry. The developed technologies will eventually be used on-site at Rolls-Royce and SAESL’s facilities for improved productivity, costs savings and business competitiveness.

The joint lab is a significant milestone in Singapore’s push for the future of manufacturing. It will develop cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, such as the additive manufacturing (3D industrial printing) of complex aero-engine components, as well as advanced robotic and automatic solutions.

One of the joint lab’s goals is for the local manufacturing industry to adopt the latest technologies, and be part of the high-value global manufacturing supply chain to generate economic outcomes in Singapore.

A*STAR Chairman Lim Chuan Poh said: “The A*STAR-Rolls-Royce-SAESL Smart Manufacturing Joint Lab demonstrates A*STAR’s commitment to working with the enterprises to sustain the competitiveness of the local manufacturing sector, a key pillar of Singapore’s economy. Our Future of Manufacturing strategy involves bringing together ideas, resources, people and along the innovation value-chain from MNCs to SMEs on a synergistic platform to co-create and co-develop to benefit Singapore’s future economy.”

Rolls-Royce Chairman Ian Davis said: “This agreement is further evidence of our special relationship with Singapore that began over 50 years ago. This continues to flourish as we make ground-breaking technological advances, together. Singapore, as demonstrated by its Future of Manufacturing initiative, is continually transforming, able and inventive. That is why Singapore is a compelling partner to work with.”

Manufacturing is a key pillar of Singapore’s economy, contributing to 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, and employing 14 per cent of the total workforce in 2016.

As an important aviation hub in Asia, Singapore continues to attract one of the largest and most diverse concentrations of aerospace companies. The total output from the local aerospace industry is worth over S$8 billion, 85 per cent of which comes from MRO activities and the rest from manufacturing. Singapore accounts for 10 per cent of global MRO output.