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GKN Aerospace to deliver €112M R&D programmes for sustainable aviation

Posted 18 July 2022

GKN Aerospace is to lead two ground-breaking collaborative R&D programmes, focused on electrification and thermoplastics, to support the development of sustainable aviation technologies and pave the way for the industry to reach net zero emissions. Both programmes are part of the Dutch ‘Luchtvaart in Transitie’ proposal and are funded in partnership with the Dutch Growth Fund.

Image courtesy GKN Aerospace

The Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre, Technical University of Delft, members of Lucht en Ruimtevaart Nederland and members of Netherlands Aerospace Group will partner with GKN Aerospace on the research & development programmes, making it truly collaborative across industry, knowledge institutes, SMEs and universities. Around 100 highly specialised engineers and operators will work together on the programmes, based out of GKN Aerospace’s centres of excellence in Hoogeveen, Papendrecht and Hoogerheide.

The electrification project includes research and development towards advanced Electrical Wiring Interconnection Systems (EWIS) for sustainable aviation. This consists of developing High Voltage High Power Wiring, necessary for the distribution of high electrical power as part of an (hybrid) electric powertrain or a hydrogen fuel cell system, as well as to transport data signals. The new technology will need to meet these advanced requirements, with a lower weight and volume within an aircraft than today’s equivalent. The project also covers the development of cost-efficient design and assembly automation technologies for high power and electrical data distribution systems.

The thermoplastics project aims to develop new thermoplastic materials and processes for scalable and affordable high volume production.  Thermoplastic composites are advanced lightweight materials offering weight savings of at least 10% compared with traditional aircraft materials, as well as being more efficient to produce and with a high level of fire safety and recyclability. This makes thermoplastics a lower-cost, sustainable solution for aircraft structural components.

GKN Aerospace is today leading sustainable aerospace technology projects in multiple countries and these new projects will continue to build momentum towards the industry achieving net zero carbon emissions. GKN Aerospace will use its long-term experience and in-depth knowledge of thermoplastic aerostructures and electrical wiring interconnection systems (EWIS) throughout the projects.

Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Micky Adriaansens who recently visited GKN Aerospace to discuss the projects and the funding said: “Inspiring to see how a large number of parties in the Netherlands, from manufacturing industry including SMEs to knowledge institutes, work together in an adaptive ecosystem to make the necessary steps towards significantly more sustainable aviation. In the longer term innovative technologies like thermoplastic composites promise to have a notable contribution to the ambitions of the international aviation industry to achieve net zero targets and sustain an economic impact as well.”

John Pritchard, President Civil Airframe GKN Aerospace said: “GKN Aerospace has deep knowledge and expertise in thermoplastic technology and EWIS and we are proud to lead these projects. Accelerating the adoption of lightweight, cost effective advanced thermoplastic aerostructures and development of high voltage high power wiring systems is a critical stepping stone for the aerospace industry and its move to more energy-efficient aircraft.  Ensuring we can not only develop these technologies, but also manufacture them across the Netherlands supply chain, will maintain our world-leading position in this area and underpin our commitment to sustainability. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy is a key part of the Dutch eco-system and it is providing vital support to the industry as we focus on shaping the next generation of sustainable aircraft.
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