Abstract

Additive Manufacturing (AM) has the potential to revolutionise the way aerospace components are manufactured and re-invent supply chains. This technology can assist the aerospace sector to produce lightweight parts, which will lead to a reduction in emissions and fuel consumption. The AM process will also maximise the buy-to-fly ratio, with significantly less waste than using traditional subtractive methods. To enable the UK’s established aerospace OEMs and the supporting supply chain to take a leading position in the exploitation of AM, a mechanism for production system development is required to effectively deliver new and enhanced end-use components, ensuring cost and quality targets are achieved.
The UK currently has a strong R&D base in AM and a number of businesses developing its commercial industrialisation. The UK has a powerful aerospace manufacturing sector - second in the global rankings with over 4,000 companies employing about 230,000 people. The UK aerospace sector has the largest number of small and medium sized enterprise (SME) companies in Europe. The economic forecast indicates that by 2025 AM could deliver £410m GVA to the UK economy. Currently there are high costs and risks associated with setting up AM processes, buying equipment and developing AM process chains for UK aerospace supply chain companies.
Aims of the DRAMA project
DRAMA (Digital Reconfigurable Additive Manufacturing facilities for Aerospace) is a three year, £14.3m collaborative research project and part of the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute’s (ATIs) programme, which started in November 2017. The consortium is led by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) – home to the National Centre for Additive Manufacturing and includes ATS, Autodesk, Granta Material Intelligence, Midlands Aerospace Alliance, NPL, Renishaw and the University of Birmingham.

The project will help build a stronger AM supply chain for UK aerospace by developing a digital learning factory. The entire AM process chain will be digitally twinned, enabling the cost of process development to be de-risked by carrying it out in virtual environment. The facility will be reconfigurable, so that it can be tailored to fit the requirements of different users and to allow different hardware and software options to be trialled. During the three years of the project an additive manufacturing Knowledge Base will also be created, to allow faster adoption and implementation of this transformative technology by UK businesses.
Reduce the cost and risk of set-up
• De-risk deployment of AM processes and equipment for the UK aerospace sector, by building reconfigurable pre-production facilities, where supply chain companies and OEMs can come to learn, model and validate end-to-end AM process chains.
Reduce the time and cost of planning and validation
• Digital twin of the facilities, manufacturing processes and plant
• Digital toolsets for process and plant simulation
• Data analytics and optimisation
• A knowledge base
Develop capability across the UK aerospace supply chain
• This world-first, digitally twinned reconfigurable AM facility, will be at the forefront of AM technology and can be used by UK companies across the aerospace supply chain.
MTC to lead £14m additive manufacturing aerospace project
The Manufacturing Technology Centre will lead on major aerospace R&D project to grow innovation in the sector.
Following the launch of the Industrial Strategy white paper on Monday November 27, Business Secretary Greg Clark announced £53.7 million of funding for seven R&D projects. This funding is part of government’s work with industry through the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) to tackle barriers to growth, boost exports and grow high value jobs.
Unveiled at the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Conference 2017, one of those seven projects is The DRAMA (Digital Reconfigurable Additive Manufacturing facilities for Aerospace) led by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) with partners ATS Global, Autodesk, Granta Design, Midlands Aerospace Alliance, National Physics Laboratory, Renishaw and the University of Birmingham.
DRAMA will establish leading additive manufacturing ‘test bed’ facilities for the aerospace industry and its supply chain at the National Centre for Additive Manufacturing (based at the MTC in Coventry) and the Renishaw AM Solution Centre in Stone.
The project will showcase the use of digital technologies to drive productivity and reliability in AM, leading to increased adoption of AM technologies by the aerospace sector and, in the long term, other industrial sectors. It will also deliver the world’s first digitally-twinned reconfigurable AM facility and establish the UK as a global leader in additive manufacturing technology. The project, part of the ATI programme, has received a grant of £11.2 million through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “In November, we launched our ambitious Industrial Strategy which builds on our significant economic strengths, while looking at innovative ways to improve our productivity and will ensure government continues to work closely with industries including our UK aerospace sector.
“The UK aerospace sector is one of the most successful in the world, which is why we are today announcing £53.7 million of investment in seven aerospace research and development (R&D) projects across the UK.
“This investment, part of the £3.9 billion government and industry committed to this sector by 2026. The Aerospace Technology Institute plays a crucial role in helping to direct this investment and maintain UK excellence in the sector.”

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

The Manufacturing Technology Centre Limited, COVENTRY £1,308,724 £ 1,089,382
 

Participant

Granta Design Limited, Cambridge £394,045 £ 236,427
Renishaw P L C, GLOUCESTERSHIRE £449,155 £ 224,578
Ats Applied Tech Systems Ltd, Nuneaton £844,720 £ 422,360
Autodesk Limited, FARNBOROUGH £667,051 £ 333,526
University of Birmingham, United Kingdom £310,598 £ 310,598
Npl Management Limited, TEDDINGTON £188,300 £ 188,300
Midlands Aerospace Alliance, United Kingdom £886,531 £ 620,572

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