Composite Aircraft Wing Research Gets Underway at GKN Aerospace

GKN Aerospace teams at the Company's Composites Research Centre, Cowes, UK, and at the Ice Protection Facility in Luton, UK, have commenced work on the three year 'Next Generation Composite Wing' (NGCW) research program aimed at revolutionizing technologies that will improve future wing design and manufacturing processes in the UK.

NGCW is an Airbus, UK-led collaboration between 17 leading British organizations, both industrial companies and research organizations, and is jointly funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB), a number of Regional Development Agencies (RDA's) and the industrial partner companies.

Market predictions indicate that in the coming years, some 60% of the bare structure weight of a typical 150-seater aircraft platform will comprise composite materials - whilst aircraft demand could necessitate production rates in excess of 40 aircraft sets per month.

GKN Aerospace's involvement on the NGCW programme will further progress the Company's advanced composites manufacturing and ice protection expertise, the aim being to ensure that future composite wing structures and their integrated system technologies can be produced to the necessary standards and at the required high production rates. For GKN Aerospace, the NGCW activity will focus on optimizing factory layout for high rate production and maximum efficiency. The Company will examine new developments in composite tooling and hard metal coatings to extend tooling life and will work to advance wing systems design integration.

Frank Bamford, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Strategy at GKN Aerospace comments: "We view the NGCW research as a key enabling program taking the UK capability in the vital area of wing manufacture forwards significantly. For GKN Aerospace, this work forms part of an integrated portfolio of research and development activities aimed at progressing wing technologies and manufacturing processes, and enabling us effectively to undertake a greater part of the aircraft wing assembly and integration activity for our customers in the future."

NGCW will progress work recently completed by GKN Aerospace as part of the European Union research program 'ALCAS', and will continue work already underway on the EU's 'Integrated Wing' program. Through 'ALCAS' the Company successfully addressed the out-of-autoclave manufacture of large scale components using electrically heated tooling. Through 'Integrated Wing' the Company is demonstrating leading edge electro-thermal ice protection, integrated within a composite nose skin structure.

GKN Aerospace is the aerospace operation of GKN plc (LSE:GKN), one of the world's largest engineering companies. GKN Aerospace serves a global customer base with some 8,500 personnel operating in North and South America, Australia, the Asia Pacific and Europe and offering 24-hour 'follow the sun' engineering. With sales of ?1bn ($2bn), the business is focused around three major product areas - aerostructures, propulsion systems and transparencies, plus a number of specialist product areas - electro-thermal ice protection, fuel and flotation systems, and bullet resistant glass. The business is equally split along military and civil lines with participation on all major aircraft programmes today exceeding $1m per ship set. GKN Aerospace is a major supplier of complex composite structures; offers one of the most comprehensive capabilities in high performance metallics processing; and is the world leading supplier of cockpit transparencies and passenger cabin windows.