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Microwave technology research to speed aircraft components production

News International-French

9 Apr 2015

A new initiative to cut the time needed to make complex composite aircraft components has been launched with the award of a EPSRC High Value Manufacturing Catapult Fellowship.

Prof Richard Day will work with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC) and the National Composites Centre in Bristol (NCC) to develop microwave technology that industry could use to cut curing times, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Richard is Professor of Composites Engineering at Glyndŵr University, in Wrexham and an expert on the rapid manufacturing of composites, critical for the next generation of aircraft. He founded the North West Composites Centre at Manchester University before joining Glyndŵr University in 2010, where he helped form the Advanced Composites Training and Development Centre with Airbus in Broughton, Flintshire.

He will work closely with both the AMRC and NCC to develop microwave ovens as an alternative to conventional technology, using autoclaves – ovens that heat components under pressure.

Researchers have been using microwaves to cure composites for some years, but have yet to develop robust processes that could be used by industry to make geometrically complex parts, as opposed to flat panels.

The four year research programme will explore and overcome manufacturing problems associated with microwave curing, before going on to make complex components, identical to those used in aeroplanes.

NCC Collaborative Research Manager Dan Kells said: “We have been aware of the potential for microwave curing for a number of years. We hope that this fellowship will develop microwave curing so that it can become a real industrial process. This in turn will enable composites to continue to compete as a major structural material for aircraft and other applications.”

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