The University of Nottingham
(UoN), Manufacturing Technology Centre
and ITP Aero
are celebrating after being awarded £1.5 million in Government funding to support a three-year laser welding research and development (R&D) project.
Known as LADDER (Laser Automation and Design Development for future Engine Requirements), the three-year project will see a total investment of £2.59 million, both from ITP Aero itself and the Government’s Innovation Funding Service
. This significant milestone reflects a shared commitment to investing in technology across the East Midlands.
Also a research partner on the project is the Manufacturing and Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry. Together with the university and ITP, they will bring world-class expertise to the project, with the aim of developing and implementing an innovative laser beam welding (LBW) solution, as a robust joining technology for complex sheet-metal aeroengine fabrications.
The use of laser beam welding (LBW) produces narrow welds with a small heat-affected zone, at high production rates. The highly repeatable process offering low-distortion will be used in the short term to reduce the costs associated with non-conformance. In the longer term, it is recognised that stringent new emissions targets will necessitate further increases in engine temperatures, meaning higher performance and more complex products will be needed. Design specifically for LBW will enable increased functional capability to be achieved on a range of commodities, while at the same time increasing integrity and cost competitiveness.
Rob Mitchell, ITP Aero UK’s head of engineering, said: “This is a real milestone for us in ITP Aero UK. We are a young company, but a site with a huge amount of aerospace heritage. This is our first stand-alone project where we have sought and secured Government funding and underlines our commitment to invest in the UK in line with our research priorities. I am delighted we are able to work closely with our partners in the MTC and University of Nottingham to develop this industry-leading capability in the UK.”
Professor Chris Bennett, director of the Institute for Aerospace Technology at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to work with a company with a growing presence in the aerospace sector in the UK and globally.
“This project builds on existing strengths and a history at Nottingham in the field of welding modelling, while being at the cutting edge of aerospace manufacture and allowing us to consider some of the challenges associated with the production of real components.”
Matthew Kite, director of Power and Energy (Industrial Sector) at the MTC, said: “After a long association with ITP Aero’s Hucknall site, it is a real pleasure to accompany it on the next stage of its new journey, while also having the opportunity to work closely with the University of Nottingham, one of our founding partners.
”With our extensive experience in laser-based collaborative projects in the aerospace sector, combined with ITP Aero’s commitment to the adoption of new technologies in this area, we have a real opportunity to boost the UK’s expertise.”