Rolls-Royce selects Bristol University for composites research

Monday, 16 April 2007

Rolls-Royce, a world leading provider of power systems and services, today opened a new University Technology Centre (UTC) in Composites at the University of Bristol to further develop this technology for future products across its aerospace, marine and energy markets.

The new UTC forms part of the University’s Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), which was formally launched today in Bristol by Malcolm Wicks MP, the UK Minister for Science and Innovation.

Ric Parker, Director – Research and Technology for Rolls-Royce, said: “Composites are recognised as a vital component of aero-engine design and manufacturing capability. We already use composites – the Joint Strike Fighter propulsion system has composite stator aerofoils, for example – but increasingly we expect composites to be applied to gas turbine components operating in more demanding parts of the engine, and to a wider range of products, including our civil engines.

“Bristol is a proven centre of excellence for composite research and development – as today’s launch of ACCIS shows – and we are delighted to make this the focus of our own composites research. Academic collaboration is increasingly important, and I expect Bristol will work with our international university research network on this important technology area.”

The Composites centre is the 28th UTC Rolls-Royce has established worldwide. Many of these are in the UK, but in recent years several have also been inaugurated overseas, reflecting the company’s global research and technology presence.

The Bristol-based UTC will act as a focus for composites research activities, liaising closely with other UTCs and academic outlets that have expertise in this area to provide a co-ordinated programme to meet the needs of Rolls-Royce. These include the Rolls-Royce funded UTC at Dresden and other UK universities including Imperial College (London), Oxford, Nottingham and Ulster.

It will provide a validated analysis capability for the mechanical response of composites that can be used to design composite engine components. Work programmes will include development of new test and analysis methods, understanding fatigue and damage tolerance, and studying 3-D woven composites.

Bristol will have an academic team headed by Professor Michael Wisnom, Director of ACCIS and Professor of Aerospace Structures at Bristol University, and a research team incorporating post-doctoral researchers, PhD students, in addition to dedicated technician, project management and administrative support.

Professor Wisnom said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to establish this new centre, and look forward to applying our expertise on design, analysis and manufacture of advanced composites to components and structures of interest to Rolls-Royce.”

  1. Rolls-Royce, a world-leading provider of power systems and services for use on land, at sea and in the air, operates in four global markets - civil aerospace, defence aerospace, marine and energy.
  2. It continues to invest in core technologies, products, people and capabilities with the objective of broadening and strengthening the product portfolio, improving efficiency and enhancing the environmental performance of its products. These investments create high barriers to entry.
  3. The company has established strong positions within programmes that will shape the power-systems market for many years to come.
  4. The success of its products is demonstrated by rapid and substantial gains in market share. The company now has a total of 54,000 gas turbines in service worldwide and they generate a demand for high-value services throughout their operational lives.
  5. The company seeks to add value for its customers with aftermarket services that will enhance the performance and reliability of its products. Services revenues have grown by 10 per cent per annum compound over the past 10 years.
  6. Rolls-Royce has a broad customer base comprising 600 airlines, 4,000 corporate and utility aircraft and helicopter operators, 160 armed forces, more than 2,000 marine customers including 70 navies, and energy customers in 120 countries. Rolls-Royce is a technology leader, employing 38,000 people in offices, manufacturing and service facilities in 50 countries.
  7. Annual sales total £7.4 billion, of which 53 per cent are services revenues. The firm and announced order book is £26.1 billion, of which aftermarket services represent 38 per cent, providing visibility of future levels of activity.
  8. The Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS) at the University of Bristol brings together an interdisciplinary team of more than 50 researchers working on the science, engineering and application of fibre reinforced composite materials and structures. Research spans four broad themes: Multifunctional Composites & Novel Microstructures; Design, Analysis & Failure; Intelligent Structures and Composites Processing and Characterisation. The Centre has very strong industrial links, especially in the aerospace sector.
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