At the Paris Airshow this year, GKN Aerospace aims to progress business across its areas of expertise with particular focus on a range of critical developing technologies. The company believes developments underway today will support a fundamental shift in the way airframes will be designed and manufactured in the future.
Marcus Bryson, Chief Executive of GKN Aerospace explains, “We are working alongside the major airframe and aero-engine manufacturers, contributing to the dynamic pace of technological change in the industry today. These new technologies will help create a new generation of aircraft that are more efficient, far quieter and less polluting – and that we can manufacture more swiftly, efficiently and at lower cost than ever before.”
The company’s future business direction is supported by a common technology plan. In composite structures work is focused on enabling structures to be produced to an optimised design that fully exploits the qualities of composite materials, at higher speed and lower cost - and with greater consistency. This composite structure expertise is also now being brought to bear on the aero-engine, with one example being the composite engine fan blade joint venture activity with Rolls-Royce. Alongside this work, effective composite structure protection and repair are also issues being addressed.
Metallics research work is focused on improved manufacturing techniques used with advanced aluminium and titanium alloys. This includes a joint venture with EADS examining additive layer manufacturing – a process which has the potential to revolutionise industrial manufacturing across many sectors. The company is also studying robotic technologies, new cutting and joining processes and machining developments that could together reduce material consumption by as much as 50% whilst improving the speed, capacity and quality of the manufacture.
In niche technologies, research is examining developing ice protection, intelligent coatings and acoustics technologies. These are all areas that have the potential to significantly improve the capabilities of metallic, composite and transparent structures, extending airframe performance and assisting the industry as it drives to meet ambitious international targets for reductions in CO2 and noise emissions.
Looking at the past year, the company gained more than $1.5bn in new business wins across its aerostructures, engine products and niche market businesses and maintained stable annual sales despite a difficult global market. Today the company’s $2.3bn annual sales are split into 53% civil and 47% military business. Of that total activity, 65% is in the supply of aerostructures to both markets - the company is the leading global tier one supplier of wing structures. A further 25% is in complex engine products, where the company is one of the three leading titanium parts manufacturers worldwide. Specialist niche technologies account for 10% of business with 15% in aftermarket support.