Research Chairs Set to Improve Aerospace Manufacturing Metrology & Testing

The UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering appointed new Research Chairs in 2020 enabling excellent engineering researchers to establish world-leading research groups in their field of engineering. Their work will help to improve manufacture and testing across a range of manufacturing sectors.

Professor Karen Holford FREng CBE FLSW, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University and Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, says: “The Royal Academy of Engineering’s support for UK engineering research and innovation helps to build a sustainable society and inclusive economy that works for everyone. This is particularly important in collaboration with industry, and these funding schemes help UK companies benefit from the knowledge of expert engineering researchers and their university teams.” 

Over the last 20 years, the Academy’s Research Chairs and Senior Fellowships scheme has successfully supported numerous academic appointments and enhanced internationally renowned centres of excellence.

This scheme aims to strengthen the links between industry and academia by supporting exceptional academics in UK universities to undertake use-inspired research that meets the needs of the industrial partners. This program is currently accepting applications September 3rd 2020 for 2021 awards.

Professor Stuart Robson, University College London

Airbus / Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Large Volume Metrology 

Large volume metrology is used to achieve accurate, precise and reliable dimensional measurements across large spaces using portable tools. The technique is at its most challenging in aerospace where industry requires aircraft wings, comprising many components, to be rapidly manufactured to exacting sub-millimetre tolerances while incorporating lighter, stronger materials that must be rigorously assessed in both digital and physical environments. Existing measurement systems are extremely costly and require expert input to deliver against one-off specific tasks.

8m reach custom OCRobotics/Kuka snake robotProfessor Robson’s goal is to demonstrate how large volume metrology can become a ubiquitous, cost-effective tool for information gathering and integrated decision support to ensure that manufactured assemblies match their design throughout the supply chain, and that the simulated and physical performance of a product also match. This will enable seamless integration between a physical manufacturing space and its digital twin, helping to open up the flexibility, agility and economic benefits of the factories of the future.

Professor Robson says: “To be sustainable and world-leading over the long term we have to work across disciplinary boundaries. With my work now focusing on aerospace, I am fascinated by the interdisciplinary capabilities of the engineering teams developing the manufacturing techniques and the materials understanding needed to meet the complex challenges of making the next generation of aircraft. This three-way investment between the Royal Academy of Engineering, Airbus, and UCL enables us to build on an existing industry innovation partnership to deliver innovative aerospace research demonstrators that will lead to the uptake of ubiquitous, high-accuracy, consumer-inspired measurement tools in large-scale manufacturing.”

Professor Gareth Pierce, University of Strathclyde

Spirit AeroSystems / Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in In-process Non-destructive Testing for Composites 

Professor Pierce plans to revolutionise non-destructive testing (NDT) for composites throughout the aerosystems manufacturing process. As demand for composite parts in the sector increases, Professor Pierce’s research will increase the efficiency of NDT while maintaining and enhancing quality.

New aerospace structures for passenger aircraftHis research will enable a new approach to composites manufacturing, bringing traditionally conservative NDT operations into the digital manufacturing environment. He plans to develop new sensors to allow measurement earlier in the manufacturing process, and deploy them using advanced automation techniques. He will also use machine learning and AI to provide automated interpretation of the NDT scans, allowing greater consistency in inspections and earlier remedial action.

Professor Pierce says: “I have been fascinated by engineering from an early age, with a keen interest to understand how human minds can influence and control the world around them to improve the quality of their lives and of others. Together we will revolutionise NDT approaches in aerospace manufacturing and help to ensure the safety and quality of the next generation of aerospace structures.” 

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