Babcock and UoE partner on new composites facility

The University of Edinburgh (UoE) and Babcock International have revealed plans for a new £2.4m composites test facility, located at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard in Fife.

(Credit: Babcock)

Known as Fastblade, it will be the first centre of its kind designed to carry out large-scale accelerated testing of tidal blades. This work is then expected to feed into other industries, including the marine, transport, nuclear and aerospace sectors.

According to Babcock, the facility will employ complex testing equipment that will simulate real-world forces, helping to speed up product development cycles. At the heart of this will be a hydraulic system that enables structures to be tested more efficiently than existing technologies. The system will also recover energy between load cycles, reducing the cost of testing. Babcock said that advanced measurement systems will enable developers to understand damage accumulation and optimise blade structures using data-driven design.

“When UoE approached Babcock they were looking for specialist facilities and engineering design expertise to help get the project from research application to reality,” said Neil Young (left), a technology director at Babcock who has been involved from the project’s outset.

Babcock’s Neil Young

“At Rosyth, we had both these key requirements, which were not available anywhere else in a single location. Our focus has been to optimise the design of the reaction frame to which the composite structure is mounted, and we’ve done this in partnership with Edinburgh. The design also included upgrading the foundation design in the building to accommodate the additional loads imposed by the fatigue testing.

“Whilst we are still at the early stages of development, we are creating something that will have real benefits for all the companies using the facility in years to come.”

As well as providing UoE’s engineers with a new testbed for composites and tidal technology, Fastblade will also help fulfil the university’s commitments under the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which include targets to help improve digital skills across the whole of the region.

“This collaboration is an opportunity to develop a world-class engineering facility to accelerate and support the development of new efficient technologies, and will be a great benefit to the tidal energy sector,” said Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, head of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering.

Babcock told The Engineer that work on Fastblade will begin later in the year, with the facility fully operational by Spring 2020.