SYMCA and Industry Partners Secure £29.5 Million Grant to Revolutionize Aerospace Manufacturing

In a groundbreaking collaboration, the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA), Sheffield City Council, the University of Sheffield, and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult have joined forces with key industry players to propel aerospace manufacturing into a new era. This transformative endeavor has recently received a staggering £29.5 million grant from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to support state-of-the-art technologies and processes aimed at reducing cost, waste, production time, and carbon emissions.

The aerospace industry has long grappled with the time-consuming nature of traditional manufacturing methods, where skilled artisans carefully lay layers of ‘prepreg’ or dry-fiber material by hand onto tools. Human error and inconsistencies have posed significant challenges, leading to a quest for more sustainable and efficient alternatives.

The ambitious project, aptly named “Compass,” seeks to disrupt current production limitations and technological barriers by establishing large-scale aerospace assemblies at unprecedented rates while maintaining stringent quality levels and precision—a crucial factor in the aerospace sector.

Maria Laine, President of Boeing UK, expressed her enthusiasm for the venture, stating, “Together with our world-leading industry partners, this investment is poised to revolutionize aerospace manufacturing to meet global demand, while supporting vital jobs and growth in the UK.”

Compass aims to achieve its visionary goals through a multifaceted approach that leverages cutting-edge research and development in collaboration with industry pioneers:

1. Run-at-Rate Demonstration of Automated Manufacturing Processes: The project will enable the demonstration of large-scale automated manufacturing processes, a critical step towards streamlining production and ensuring consistency.

2. Precise Pick and Place and In-Line Inspection Technologies: By developing advanced pick and place and in-line inspection technologies, Compass will ensure the aerospace industry meets the exacting tolerances required for its components.

3. Digital Twin Technology for Virtual Development: A digital twin of the facility and manufacturing process will serve as a virtual testing ground, allowing industry experts to conduct development work virtually and facilitate research into virtual commissioning.

4. Integration of Sensored Processes and Equipment: Fully-sensored processes and equipment will be interconnected within a flexible control architecture, creating a unified platform for validating parts and processes. Moreover, this integrated system will enable active control, responding dynamically to changing process environments.

The wealth of data accumulated over time through these innovations will also pave the way for future research in artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, unlocking untapped potential for factory-scale process optimization.

The profound impact of this project extends beyond technological advancements—it is set to bolster economic growth and secure vital jobs in the UK. By aligning academic brilliance with industry expertise, SYMCA, Sheffield City Council, the University of Sheffield, and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult have harnessed the power of collaboration to steer aerospace manufacturing into a greener, more efficient, and sustainable future. As the world watches, Compass stands as a beacon of innovation and progress for the aerospace industry on a global scale.


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