NCC at the Rolls-Royce Advanced Manufacturing Forum 2016

The National Composites Centre was delighted to exhibit at the Advanced Manufacturing Forum at the Rolls-Royce Learning and Development Centre in Derby on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th May 2016.

Above: The HVM Catapult centres exhibiting at the Rolls-Royce Advanced Manufacturing Forum

The NCC exhibited alongside Rolls-Royce’s key research partners, including many of our fellow HVM Catapult centres such as the MTC, AMRC, NAMRC, and the AFRC. This was a great opportunity to showcase the innovation and world-class engineering the Catapult centres facilitate. 

In collaboration with our parent company, the University of Bristol, the NCC showcased a robotic lay-up demonstrator alongside a hand lay-up preparation table, to highlight the challenges faced in composite manual lay-up and the benefits an automated process can bring.

Above: The NCC stand at the Rolls-Royce Advanced Manufacturing Forum 

The hands-on manual lay-up task pitted pairs of visiting volunteers against each other. Completed by apprentices and senior board members alike, stand visitors laid up composite pre-impregnated sheets onto two moulds. The moulds, which initially appeared very similar, varied greatly in their difficulty to layup successfully due to a small ramp angle variation. This demonstrated how seemingly subtle design changes can make a large difference to the manufacturing process, highlighting the National Composites Centre and ACCIS (University of Bristol) shared vision that Design for Manufacture in composites across all manufacturing methods is a key research area; and something that will be of great potential benefit to Rolls-Royce. 

Above: Business Leaders trying their hand at manual lay-up!

The stand also featured a live demonstration of a robotic layup system as developed by Dr Michael Elkington, supported by Dr Carwyn Ward and Professor Kevin Potter; and as seen in this video here. It shows the operation of an ABB six-axis robot equipped with a multi sectioned end effector successfully laying up composite plies over a complex double curved mould. This solution came about from developing an understanding of how manual operators form plies, the impact of geometry, and then automating the manufacturing process to mimic the human operators. The demonstration shows that the manufacture of complex geometry structures is possible and to repeatable quality with off-the-shelf hardware.

These demonstrations, as next generation manufacturing solutions, were funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the EPSRC Centre for innovative manufacture of composites, CIMComp (Grant: EP/IO33513/1), the EPSRC ACCIS Centre for Doctoral Training (Grant: EP/G036772/1), and was further supported by both the NCC and Rolls-Royce.


The NCC was delighted to attend and to be considered a key research partner and technology provider by a Tier 1 Member.  The event was a great success and provided a fantastic opportunity to showcase collaborations between the NCC and the University of Bristol. 

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