South Yorkshire has unrivalled expertise in supporting the growth and development of the UK’s £32 billion aerospace market. The longstanding relationship between the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the world’s leading aircraft maker, Boeing, has led to almost the entire aerospace supply chain having a presence in the region.
The region excels in the machining and manufacture of titanium, which, along with composites, form key materials essential to the aerospace industry. The AMRC’s research collaboration with UK-based manufacturer Messier-Dowty, for instance, helped the company win the prestigious contract for the landing gear on the front and rear of Boeing’s new Dreamliner.
Companies such as Metalysis, which moved from the ‘golden triangle’ to Sheffield, have world-leading processes based on solid-state alloy powder technologies offering lower-cost and more environmentally friendly production methods. They are part of a fast growing cluster of high-value aerospace component manufacturers pushing the frontiers of material technology in the region.
South Yorkshire delivered the largest ceramic shell titanium casting ever created from a single pour in Europe: another technology that is critical to the future of aerospace. AMRC Castings, and its commercial arm Casting Technology International, is the UK’s only titanium melting facility and this achievement sends a clear signal that region is open for business for large-scale titanium casting.
Investment guru, Warren Buffett paid $32 billion for a facility in the US using a similar technology: secure in the knowledge that Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin would have to buy his products. A Boeing 777 airliner contains some 130,000 pounds of titanium, while an Airbus 380—the world’s largest airliner—has as much as 200,000 pounds distributed among all structures and components from landing gear to engine fan blades. Now, the Castings’ facility offers an alternative.
The relationship between the AMRC and Boeing was recently singled out by Forbes business magazine as a ‘special example’ of a successful research partnership between a leading Fortune 500 company and a higher education institution.
“I was blown away by my visit to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre – combines creation of local jobs beautifully with robotics/AI innovation for industry. A pioneering and visionary model for the future of academic-industry collaborations.”
Professor Fei-Fei Li, Google Chief Scientist in AI and Machine Learning
In 2015 Rolls-Royce opened their £110 million Advanced Blades Casting Facility, one of the most productive and technically advanced facilities in the world. Robots and automated inspection enable the manufacture of 100,000 turbine blades annually for the manufacturer’s Trent aero-engines.
Two years’ later, Boeing announced that it, too, would be building a production facility in Sheffield: its first in Europe, and a state-of-the-art plant using skilled apprentices from across the region, along with smart machining and digital technologies de-risked by research teams at the AMRC.
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