Centre to encourage virtual engineering

The aerospace sector in the north west of England is set to benefit from a new centre for virtual engineering at Daresbury Laboratory, following the confirmation of a £5.3m investment.

The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), which will be financed with £2.5m from the Northwest European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), £1.18m from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and £1.64m from Liverpool University. It is expected to encourage virtual engineering activities and joint research programmes across the sector and between industry and academia.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is hosting the centre at Daresbury Laboratory and is providing £200,000 of support through access to its large computational science and engineering machines and its scientists’ expertise in specialist software development.

Virtual Engineering (VE) involves integrated product/process modelling and the creation of virtual prototypes.

Major aerospace companies are said to be committed to VE as it provides a cost-effective method of presenting future options to the customer and capturing their requirements.

However, according to STFC, integrated VE tools and techniques have not been successfully implemented across the whole lifecycle and throughout the supply chain, presenting a major barrier to organisations adopting the technology.

The VEC aims to address this through a public-private sector partnership bringing together Liverpool University, the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Daresbury, the Northwest Aerospace Alliance and its members, plus the prime contractors who see the development of the VEC as critical to the survival of the region’s aerospace cluster.

‘The use of high-fidelity virtual prototypes of future aircraft, in synthetic operating and manufacturing environments, is becoming critical to getting designs right first time – a goal that the aerospace industry strives for,’ said Prof Gareth Padfield, head of the School of Engineering at Liverpool University and chief scientific officer to the VEC. ‘The VEC regional partnership between academia and industry will act as a catalyst for the supply chain to achieve this goal for the next generation of aviation systems.’