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By Julian Nettlefold

20 May 08. Marcus Bryson, CEO of GKN Aerospace told BATTLESPACE Editor at a briefing on Tuesday that GKN Aerospace had looked at providing its composite technology to armoured vehicle manufacturers and had spoken to General Dynamics in the USA about a possible application for FRES. Coupled to the Company’s Off Highway driveline components, and its armoured glass business, GKN Aerospace is well placed to offer vehicle manufacturers components not only to improve mobility and protection but also to make crucial weight savings in vehicles.

Phil Grainger, Technology Director of GKN Aerospace said that advances in composite technology means that these materials are overtaking aluminum in particular and he expects a 30:30:30 split between aluminum, steel and composite use in the future.

Frank Bamford, Senior Vice President of Business development and Strategy at GKN
Aerospace told the Editor, “We are constantly looking at the development of our technologies for applications in the vehicle industry in particular. We are a world leader in armoured glass, supplying the majority of glass for the HMMV upgrades in the USA. We are looking at developing lighter glass to reduce weight.”

“In addition to new applications, the crucial need for composite manufacturers is to develop the automation of production. As the leading independent supplier of composite structures for aviation, the development of effective automated processes is, of course, a key focus for us. We are examining all our accepted manufacturing practices and exploring many innovative ideas and in future we expect to employ a range of automated processes that will support our highly skilled workforce in producing complex parts far more swiftly, in greater quantity and more economically than is possible today.”

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 7500 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.

The Company develops techniques for rapid deposition of composite materials for aerospace components – sees increases in deposition rates by a factor of 40. With ever more of the airframe content manufactured from composite materials (some 60% of airframe content on the latest passenger aircraft) and the aero-engines market now looking more closely at the benefits of using composites, GKN Aerospace is developing an evolving automated processes to allow complex structures, whether flat or curved, for airframe or engine, to be produced swiftly, to a consistent standard, and cost effectively.

Existing products continue to be produced using traditional processes as the cost of the re-certification of the part can be prohibitive. However, new programmes such as the contract for the A400M primary wing spar, have already offered GKN Aerospace an opportunity to introduce some automated manufacturing processes.

For the A400M wing spar – the largest all-composite wing spar ever produced – the Company has employed Automated Tape Lay-up (ATL) equipment for the first time in

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