The UK has launched a new research program aiming to strengthen the supply chain for the UK’s aero-engine industry and accelerate the development and introduction of low carbon aircraft engine technology. The total cost of the project including government and industry investment is expected to be around £90 million (US$148 million).
The program—Strategic Affordable Manufacturing in the UK with Leading Environmental Technology (SAMULET)—is a collaboration between industry and academia led by Rolls-Royce working in a consortium alongside other high profile manufacturers, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and several of the UK’s top universities. The UK Technology Strategy Board is investing £28.5 million (US$46.8 million) in the programme and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), £11.5 million (US$18.9 million). Further support is under discussion with regional bodies.
SAMULET will focus on productivity and environmental improvements including reductions in raw material usage, efficient advanced manufacturing processes and lower engine fuel consumption. The program aims are to be achieved by developing new technologies and delivering a number of knowledge transfer initiatives. The program will be closely linked with the advanced manufacturing research centers (in Sheffield, Glasgow, and Ansty near Coventry) to strengthen the position of UK aerospace manufacturing and its supply chain.
The consortium is led by Rolls-Royce plc. The other companies involved as industrial partners are: BAE Systems, GKN, Tacit Connexions, Granta, and BERU F1. These companies intend to use the research facilities at the Rolls Royce University Technology Centres at Birmingham, Cambridge, Cranfield, Loughborough, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton and the “AxRC’s” at Sheffield, Strathclyde and Coventry (Ansty).
The academic partners formally collaborating include specialist principal investigators at the Universities at Birmingham, Cambridge, Cranfield, Loughborough, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford Sheffield, Southampton and Strathclyde. Additionally, principal academics in Oxford, Cambridge, Loughborough, Cranfield, Manchester, Birmingham Sheffield, Southampton and Strathclyde have been successful in obtaining EPSRC research grants aligned with the SAMULET program. The companies collaborating within the SAMULET program intend to sub-contract further academic research from Imperial College and the Universities of Swansea, Newcastle, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bath, Bristol, Cranfield, Sheffield, Southampton and Strathclyde.
The ACARE (Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe) targets are specifically defined and require reductions by 2020 (relative to best practice in 2000), of CO2 emissions per passenger-km by 50%, NOx emissions by 80% and noise by 50%. These targets will need to be met by any manufacturer wishing to sell engines for commercial aircraft in this time-scale. They require radical change for new aircraft, engines and their systems.
The SAMULET proposal builds on the earlier Environmentally Friendly Engine (EFE) programme, which the Technology Strategy Board, EPSRC and regions already support, and links closely to the EU Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative which is focused on building and testing engine demonstrators validating cleaner and quieter technologies. (Earlier post.)
SAMULET is one of several major research programs which collectively aim to achieve a two-fold increase in engine deliveries over the next eight years within the current manufacturing footprint. They aim to achieve a 50% - 80% reduction in cycle times in key operations, a 30% improvement in productivity of key operations and in ‘right first time’, and a reduction in material waste of 45%. It will make it easier, faster and cheaper to make key components, with the use of less raw material and energy.