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Headlines Published on 07 February 2007

Title First-ever European waterjet centre unveiled, promises greener engineering

European aerospace engineering got a much-welcomed boost recently with the unveiling of a state-of-the-art waterjet machining centre at the University of Nottingham. The cutting-edge technology centre is the first of its kind in Europe and the first time waterjet machining will be applied to aerospace engineering outside the US. Waterjet is considered unparalleled technology in many respects; not only for its precision, but also for its environmentally friendly characteristics. Waterjets can perform tasks with a simple mixture of water and abrasive materials where harmful chemicals were used in the past.

‘Green’ waterjet technology eliminates the need for corrosive acids for aerospace-specific techniques. © Matt+
‘Green’ waterjet technology eliminates the need for corrosive acids for aerospace-specific techniques.
The new €1.6 million centre will give researchers the opportunity to explore novel solutions for aerospace applications. Waterjet technology is on the rise in all engineering fields and holds many advantages over existing technology. The new waterjet technology has six-axis capability able to precisely sculpt three-dimensional objects, a vast improvement over previously available machines which operated in only two-dimensions.

“It’s a method that’s particularly suited to aerospace engineering,” says Professor Ian Pashby, who heads the project. “The metals used within the industry are difficult to cut and machine using other methods. Waterjet technology is very precise and adaptable — it can even be used to cut food.”

The aerospace industry poses many unique engineering challenges requiring creative solutions. One technique specific to aerospace components consists of hollowing out ‘pockets’ within blocks of metal. Until now, this was done through the use of harsh chemicals, posing environmental concerns. The nature of waterjet machining eliminates such environmental dilemmas, potentially giving aerospace an added advantage.

“ Waterjet manufacturing can be and has been used to reduce the cost and environmental impact of producing and refurbishing our components. It is suitable for many commodities in our supply chain as well as processing next generation materials and structures. The machine at The University of Nottingham now allows us and the aerospace industry to research and develop solutions to a range of manufacturing challenges,” says Stephen Burgess, Rolls-Royce Manufacturing Process and Technology Director. Rolls Royce and the University of Nottingham are jointly supporting technical development at the centre.

The technology centre was officially inaugurated on January the 24th, 2007 before a group of sixty stakeholders in the aerospace industry, and is expected to help Europe compete in the global aerospace technology market.

More information:

  • School of Mechanical Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Nottingham
  • European Space Policy on Europa

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