The Scottish Space Industry Plans for Lower Manufacturing Costs

1st Mar 2022
The Scottish Space Industry Plans for Lower Manufacturing Costs

A consortium led by the NMIS (National Manufacturing Institute Scotland) is working with Airbus and Safran Landing Systems on a promising new project that will help Scottish space efforts. The goal is to lower costs, save time, and increase sustainability across vital component manufacturing processes. A mix of forging, additive manufacturing, and forming is taken into consideration as the key to achieving the set goals.

The Scottish Space Industry Continues to Innovate

The project called “Hybrid Direct Energy Deposition Sprint” is funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute and enjoys the support of the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult. Furthermore, besides the NMIS Digital Factory, the list of partners includes the Northern Ireland Technology Centre, the Cranfield University, as well as a 13-companies steering group.

The Hybrid DED being developed should help overcome current difficulties manufacturers face when it comes to manufacturing critical components. More specifically, those components are intended to operate in harsh conditions that require a lot of resources and time to manufacture.

If successful, the project will allow all the Scottish space-orientated companies to benefit from cheaper components and reduced manufacturing timeframes. The parties involved in developing the new DED aims to combine the following methods to achieve its goals:

  • Forging – for flexibility and the low costs
  • Forming – for the high production rates
  • Additive manufacturing – for adaptability and versatility
  • Parallel Kinematic Machine – to combine the accuracy of machine tools with robots’ dexterity

Currently, vital parts used in the aerospace industry, such as the landing gear, are initially forged and machined to obtain the final product. However, through the Hybrid DED technique, tooling, machine requirements, and forging requirements would be reduced. Also, additive manufacturing would allow engineers to add features to formed and forget components directly to reduce time and material waste. Finally, the Hybrid DED methods would significantly improve remanufacture and repair costs.

Benefits for other Sectors Besides the Scottish Space Industry

Even though the consortium is currently focusing on the improvements brought to the aerospace industry, the manufacturing method will be scaled to other sectors as well. From oil and gas, and all the way to defence or automotive, there’s no shortage of sectors that could benefit from the project’s results.

Another excellent news is that the initial two phases, which are led by NMIS and operated at the Strathclyde and Cranfield universities, are already underway. If everything goes according to plan, we could have a demo component before the end of 2022. The third phase of the project focuses on PKM techniques, and it’s conducted at Queen’s University in Belfast by NITC. Finally, the fourth and final stage is all about proofing the concept and comparing the new manufacturing route to the traditional approach. The entities involved have every reason to be optimistic about the outcome since a similar mix of techniques generated exciting results in Formula 1. So, the Scotland space and aerospace industries can look forward to reaping the benefits of the Hybrid DED project.

The Manufacturing Engineer at the NMIS, who is in charge of the project, declared that using PKM technologies together with forging and AM has the potential of reducing productions costs, lead time, as well as material waste. He added that the Hybrid DED components will support the goal of reaching net-zero targets.

Time will tell if this ambitious project will return the expected results. The hopes are definitely high as the implications for lots of industries, and especially the Scottish space efforts could be true game-changers.

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