Additive manufacturing stakeholders unite under GKN Aersopace £32M technology center

A new GKN Aerospace Global Technology Center (GTC), with additive manufacturing front and center of its strategy, is to be launched in 2020 with the collaboration of 15 household names from across the industry.

Based in Bristol, the center has been funded using £15 million from the UK Government’s Aerospace Technology Institute, and £17 million committed by GKN Aerospace itself. According to Hans Büthker, Chief Executive of GKN Aerospace, the facility and its ecosystem is a testament to the national engineering and technology roadmap. On launch it will host 300 engineers, and span a facility of 10,000 square meters.

Digital render of the forthcoming Global Technology Center. Image via GKN Aerospace
Digital render of the forthcoming Global Technology Center. Image via GKN Aerospace

The GTC is a great example of the UK’s industrial strategy at its best: with industry and the Government coming together to invest in the technology of the future,” says Büthker.

Greg Clark, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, adds:

“GKN Aerospace’s new Global Technology Centre further strengthens our aerospace heritage and engineering expertise, and will keep the UK at the forefront of the latest technologies and manufacturing processes for the next-generation of aircraft.”

The Wing of Tomorrow

As seen at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow, GKN Aerospace has invested a lot in 3D printing. According to the company, 3D printed components can be found in six crucial areas of an aircraft, representing “the largest range of flying Additive Manufacturing (AM) parts and the broadest suite of AM technologies globally.” One of these flight-critical areas is the wing, which is incidentally the primary focus of the new GTC.

In partnership with @Airbus, the facility in Bristol will be GKN Aerospace’s base for its work on the “Wing of Tomorrow” program. This program seeks the best materials, manufacturing processes, assembly techniques and technologies to expedite wing production and reduce costs. In addition to additive manufacturing, the GTC will explore the application of composite materials, advanced assembly and industry 4.0 processes as part of its core goals.

Büthker adds, “The GTC will ensure we continue to develop new technologies that deliver for our customers, making aircraft more sustainable and economical.”

Artist impression of a future strong wall and floor test area for wings in an Airbus Wing Integration Centre . Image via Airbus
Artist impression of a future strong wall and floor test area for wings in an Airbus Wing Integration Centre . Image via Airbus

Complete with a manufacturing ecosystem 

Already the GKN has generated a strong ecosystem of partners to work together at the GTC. At present, the list covers:

– The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) near Sheffield, South Yorkshire, a Northern Powerhouse area.

Additive Industries B.V., the Dutch manufacturer of the MetalFab1 industrial metal 3D printer.

– Engineering simulation software developer ANSYS UK Limited

– Digital transformation consultancy ATS Applied Tech Systems Limited

– Bristol’s Centre for Modelling & Simulation

Digital Catapult, a UK agency supporting early stage digital technologies.

– Robot arm developer KUKA Industries UK Limited

– Coventry’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC)

Award winning 3D software provider Materialise UK Limited

– The National Composites Centre

– Specialized design company PXL Realm

Thales UK Limited, a localized branch of global aerospace and defense company Thales Group

– The University of Bath

University of Bristol

University of Sheffield

In relation to these partners, Büthker concludes, “The GTC will continue to foster such collaboration across the entire UK Aerospace ecosystem and we look forward to working with the British Government in the years to come.”

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Featured image shows an airplane assembly. Photo via GKN Aerospace