GE Collaborates with the UK’s National Composites Center

The wide range of manufacturing processes being developed by GE in collaboration with the UK’s National Composites Center were displayed during a ceremony marking the facility’s recent expansion to double its size.

Included in GE’s displays at the Center’s latest opening event on October 30 were techniques to produce advanced propeller blades for a new generation of quieter and more efficient regional airliners, the use of automated fiber placement in manufacturing complex aircraft wing panels, along with composite and metallic reinforcing layer technologies for large-diameter flexible pipes in ultra-deep water applications.

“Together with the National Composites Center, GE is exploring innovative manufacturing techniques that will open the horizons for composites in a diverse range of products,” said Steve Walters, the general manager for GE Aviation Mechanical Systems. “As a tier 1 member, we value the Center’s resources and its flexible, collaborative nature.”

The National Composites Center provides a high-quality environment to evolve cutting-edge composite technologies into manufacturing processes, with the aim of delivering innovative composite solutions to UK industry. Located at the Bristol and Bath Science Park, it is one of seven research and technology centers that form the country’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult network.

Building on the National Composites Center’s success through the joint work with industry, academia, and government based on an original £25 million public investment, a further £28 million was announced last December for the doubling of its size – with this building expansion now complete.

Two different GE businesses currently are involved in joint work with the National Composites Center: GE Aviation, Hamble, which is the company’s UK centre for aerostructures activity; and Dowty Propellers, the manufacturer of propeller systems for civil and military aircraft. GE Oil & Gas, the provider of advanced technology equipment and services for drilling and production, pipelines, refining and petrochemicals, is evaluating potential collaboration with the center.

Among the technologies exhibited at the National Composites Center’s October 30 opening event were aircraft wing panels created using hybrid manufacturing processes with the automated placement of composite fibers. One manufacturing challenge being addressed by GE Aviation, Hamble in its work with the center is the need to navigate an automated fiber placement head around complex geometries without causing fiber bridging or colliding with the panels’ honeycomb core.
Dowty Propellers is working with the National Composites Center to produce advanced composite propeller blades that have reduced weight and allow the production of complex shape designs for lower noise output. The collaboration is focused on optimizing blade designs with the most efficient and cost-effective manufacturing techniques.

GE Oil & Gas spotlighted its potential collaboration with the National Composites Center on a program to qualify large diameter flexible pipe for ultra-deep water applications. This approach uses novel hybrid flexible riser technology that applies an optimally-engineered combination of well-understood and mature metallic and composite reinforcing layer technologies. It offers performance advantages that include reduced risk on critical end-fitting technology, superior chemical resistance by using proven thermoplastic materials, as well as an increase in barrier integrity by fusing together the composite pressure armor and fluid barrier layers.