Hutchinson part of UK-wide consortium taking lead in innovative titanium aerospace project
ANTRIM aerospace company Hutchinson AeroTech is part of a consortium awarded more than a million pounds from Innovate UK to fund a project to accelerate academic research in laser welding of titanium to help it bring new technology to the market.
Hutchinson leads a consortium which brings together the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC) at Queen’s University, research body TWI in Cambridgeshire, the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry and a number of other leading industrial organisations including Leonardo Helicopters (previously AgustaWestland) and IPG Photonics.
They will collaborate to develop and demonstrate industrial welding of structural titanium to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the aerospace industry.
The consortium has been awarded £1.1m towards the value of almost £1.5 million on the so-called 'Oliver' project.
Mark Hutchinson, managing director of Hutchinson AeroTech, said: “I’m delighted that, as project lead, we have secured over £1.1 million of funding to develop and enhance the process of laser welding. Along with other key partners, this is a fantastic opportunity to exploit this technology in a commercial market."
He added: “Eventually, this new capability will replace more traditional assembly techniques on existing and newly designed aerospace parts.
"Our aim at completion of this project is to be in a prime position to use new developments in robotic laser welding from the project to implement cost savings firstly within the aerospace sector and subsequently to a wider range of industries in the future.
"The significant benefits that this project will offer include a reduction in manual labour, lead times, component weight and energy consumption. This will have a exceptional impact on the future of laser welding in the UK aerospace sector.”
The primary benefit of Innovate UK funding Oliver is that it enables the consortium to be formed and will help de-risk this project as it will allow the partner to accelerate innovations in laser welding and promote its acceptance in the aerospace market place.
John Laughlin of Innovate UK said: "The Oliver project will further develop knowledge in laser welding titanium and its application to structural aerospace assemblies, and at the same time exploit this knowledge by developing UK manufacturing capability both within the supply chain and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
"Laser welding is emerging as the process of choice since it can produce low distortion welds of good quality and properties at significantly faster speeds than other welding processes. We are delighted that this funding will allow this consortium to form and with their expertise we will add real value to the future of the aerospace sector."
Colm Higgins, manager of the Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen's, said: “Oliver is an exciting opportunity for us to translate capability and understanding at QUB to local industry.
"Following a recently-completed knowledge transfer partnership, the NITC and Hutchinson AeroTech continue to develop their strategic research collaboration.
“Further networking has extended this collaboration into other leading knowledge providers in the UK. With a route to market facilitated with leading aerospace OEMs the Oliver team is focused on making this project a commercial success for Hutchinson AeroTech, strengthening the important role Queen’s University Belfast has in supporting the local economy.”