CERCOMP UK is a collaborative project, funded through the ATI Programme, that aims to drive the development of a UK ceramic matrix composites (CMC) supply chain to increase the use of CMC materials technology in aircraft propulsion and other UK industry sectors.
Led by the National Composites Centre with fellow High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), CERCOMP UK is an Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) funded Sprint project that will focus on:
- exploring the development of a UK supply chain for CMCs
- establishing best practice of CMC manufacture methods to ensure faster and more successful product development that meets expectations and with lower scrap rates
- benchmarking product performance to provide UK industry with the knowledge required to develop new CMC products
- identifying low-cost materials and manufacturing options for CMCs
- assessing benefits and drawbacks of both conventional and novel CMC machining and methods to give industry confidence to use CMCs to develop their components
- assessing the viability and effectiveness of repairs to restore structural integrity and extend the life of CMC components, therefore reducing their impact on the environment
- assessing the health and safety aspects of factory facilities requirements
- exploiting the knowledge developed throughout the programme through the HVMC network and funding bodies working with all areas of the CMC supply chain to develop new projects for commercial components.
Why is this important?
Ceramic matrix composites are a special type of composite material often used in the aerospace sector for its many beneficial properties, including being very lightweight, able to withstand high temperatures without impact on performance, and being more resistant to corrosion and other harsh environments. This brings many environmental benefits through reducing aircraft emissions.
Currently, the USA, Japan, France and Germany are world-leading in the development of CMCs, and since CMC technologies are often export-controlled, this presents challenges for UK industry. UK companies need to be using the latest and most efficient technology in their products at a competitive price, but there is currently a lack of full understanding of the manufacturing process, material process and product performance of CMCs, as well as a limited UK supply chain which makes CMC an expensive option. This means UK produced products are at or seen to be at a disadvantage to competitors overseas.
What does the programme aim to achieve?
The main expected outputs from the project are:
- lower cost material system solutions to be used in product design and for supply chain targeting - the aim is to unlock high-performing but affordable CMC solutions
- high rate and/or low-cost non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques for CMCs - current techniques are limited and this work aims to push NDT technology towards real production methods, benefitting from state-of-the-art equipment
- an understanding of the key challenges with material processing of CMC’s including conventional and non-conventional machining
- an understanding of the health and safety implications during manufacturing and machining
- the development of material repairing capability within UK research and technology organisations to support UK industries on exploitation, as there is no known methodology or capability in the UK at present
- a CMC lifecycle assessment and cost analysis
- a roadmap highlighting on the key CMC technologies that industry should initially focus on immediate market impact (up to 5 years) and medium-long term (10 years).
Who is involved with the programme?
Although there is a primary focus on aerospace for this programme, there are many opportunities to explore CMC technologies in other key industrial sectors for the UK, including defence, nuclear, space, fuel cells, mining, and oil and gas. We’re engaging with a number of industry partners within these sectors to exploit this further.
The NCC is well-placed to capture and begin to scale-up lower ‘technology readiness level (TRL)’ academic outputs of CMCs to adopt new and advanced materials and manufacturing techniques. As part of CERCOMP UK, we are also engaging with a number of UK universities to gather their scientific inputs and support them in networking with industrial partners to encourage future collaborative efforts towards new CMC capabilities.
Cross-HVM Catapult partnership
Bringing together the NCC, AMRC and the MTC to deliver CERCOMP UK on behalf of the HVM Catapult will unlock the full capability produced through cross-centre collaboration, resulting in greater impact for the UK. The NCC has unique expertise in composites engineering including design, manufacturing, automation, materials, sustainability and NDT, with well-established relationships with major aerospace companies. Its world-leading facility has manufacturing capabilities for polymeric composites that have been successfully adapted to the manufacture of CMCs. The AMRC has a range of machine tools and analysis facilities, making it well equipped to support machining research activities on CMC materials. The MTC’s unique laser capabilities are vital for this project, with their team of experts and state-of-the-art facility on material characterisation and metrology.
We’re looking for input from additional contacts in industry and academia to feed into the development of the roadmap of key CMC technologies. If you would like to get involved or would like to find out more, please email: [email protected]