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By Julian Nettlefold

13 Apr 11. GKN Aerospace gave us a glimpse into the future of logistics management and parts manufacture following the announcement of the agreement with EADS to pursue Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology.

“In the future, there will be no requirement for the expensive and time consuming shipment of parts to the front line, the task will be undertaken by an Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) machine and using powdered material which can be formed into whatever part required at the touch of a button. ALM is being considered as a process that could be deployed in the field reducing the need for large spares stocks and extended logistics.” Frank Bamford of GKN Aerospace said at a press briefing to journalists at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on April 13th.

On April 12th 2011 EADS and GKN Aerospace launching a collaboration to examine industrialising the revolutionary manufacturing process known as Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM). The ALM process grows solid 3D shapes from powdered raw material. The shape is created as a digital model which is split into horizontal slices. A laser or electron beam then traces the shape slice by slice onto a bed of powdered material, heating the material, melting it and bonding it to the layer below. It then quickly cools to form a solid. The process is repeated slice by slice by sweeping a fresh layer of powder over the top each time. This technology has the potential to advance the design and manufacture of parts in ways that cannot be achieved today, delivering lighter, purpose-made parts which use less material, generate less waste and produce lower emissions. Early results indicate that manufacturing waste could be reduced by up to 90% – particularly significant in industries where high-cost materials are used, such as the aerospace sector.

The collaboration will be supported by a £1.96 million investment provided through a UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Regional Growth Fund grant. Work will focus on the use of ALM within the aerospace sector, including certification for use in primary and secondary aerospace components, as well as the manufacture of parts and accessories for motor vehicles. This will bring together many years of EADS expertise with the ALM process and GKN Aerospace manufacturing skills across metal and composite structures.

The project will be based in a new shared facility based near the existing EADS Innovation Works and GKN Aerospace manufacturing facilities at Filton in Bristol. It is expected to create up to 30 new sustainable engineering jobs and develop a new supply chain of companies which will secure further jobs in the South West region and beyond.

UK Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk said, “Promoting innovation is vital if we are to drive growth in our local communities. We have received a large number of ambitious and highly competitive bids to the first round of the Regional Growth Fund, which will help a number of businesses across the country, and I am delighted to announce funding for this collaboration between EADS and GKN Aerospace. Aerospace is one of Britain’s international successes and one that we should be proud of. We are number one in Europe and number two in the world with a 17 per cent global market share. I look forward to seeing the collaboration build further on this success, creating more jobs here in Bristol and providing an invaluable boost to the local economy.”

Ian Risk, Head of EADS Innovation Works UK commented, “This collaboration takes a significant step towards bringing this unique technology into industrial reality. As a more efficient, sustainable process, ALM has the potential to revolutionise industrial manufacturing and secure the UK’s position at the forefront of high tech innovation. EADS and GKN Aerospace are leaders in cutting-edge engineering and technology and we are proud to bring our skills a

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