Paris Air Show launches with the spotlight on propulsion, manufacturing and jobs

News editor

The annual international aerospace jamboree’s French leg starts this week, while in the UK, Bloodhound announces its debut.

We’re in a world of tenuous links today with the start of the Paris Air Show, Bloodhound SSC and further efforts to steer the young – especially young women – toward engineering.

So to France where the 51st Paris Air Show has opened its doors to trade visitors that in 2013 numbered 139, 273 from 181 countries.

Nestling among the airliners, fighter jets and military airlifters will be the E-Fan 2.0 from Airbus, a two-seater electric plane that is to undergo final assembly in Pau, southern France under the guidance of Airbus subsidiary Voltair. More on this development can be found on our sister site MWP Advanced Manufacturing.

E-Fan and its variants – including a proposed 90-seat regional jet – represent a fascinating step forward in the normally – and necessarily – conservative civil aviation market where Airbus is making similarly confident strides with additive manufacturing.

The company’s A350-XWB contains over 1,000 parts made via additive manufacturing and it came as little surprise to find readers of The Engineer enquire about additive in civil aviation in Your questions answered: Civil aerospace.

In the piece, Dr Rob Hewson (RH), senior lecturer in aircraft design, Department of Aeronautics, Imperial College stated that 3D printed parts already flying on aircraft include brackets that join components that are printed from plastic and metal, adding that the metal printed parts are “typically aluminium alloys”.

Chris Gear, chief technology officer and senior technical fellow, GKN Aerospace added that one of AM’s big advantages lies in material optimisation and in May his employer held a pre-Paris briefing in which Russ Dunn, senior vice president of engineering and technology elaborated on what GKN are up in the additive space.

Dunn told assembled journalists that GKN has a joint technology agreement with Arcam for electron beam powder bed technology and that a centre of excellence is being established at the company’s Filton site. GKN says that a move into production with Electron Beam Powder Bed will be about a 25% cost reduction on titanium components.

“In order to really get the benefit of this technology its not just about the part, its not just abut the process – its combining material, part and process to really optimise the way you make components,” he said.

The turbine engine will provide aircraft with thrust for decades to come but moves toward less polluting – and quieter – flight represent an exciting and challenging step change in aviation, as does the broader story of additive in manufacturing, which reduces tooling and allows – to quote Chris Gear – the design of parts that perform better than those designed to be manufactured using conventional processes.

Its hoped that innovations such as these can help act as the catalyst to young people thinking about their career choices and on Friday June 19 the Paris Air Show welcomes students to explore the myriad of opportunities that await them, plus an exhibition called The Careers Plane, which has been set up to introduce youngsters to technical positions available on the production side of the industry.

A nearby jobs and training forum will, claim the organisers, ‘propose 6,000 job offers, 5,000 internships and more.”

The Bloodhound SSC team are no strangers to engagement and outreach to schoolchildren – 5,700 UK primary and secondary schools have signed up to use the free Bloodhound Education resources – and this November the car makes will make its world debut with a 200mph trial at Newquay Aerohub, Cornwall. The car will then be fitted with airbrakes and winglets ready to commence high-speed testing in Hakskeen Pan, South Africa, in Summer 2016, when weather conditions will be optimal.

The team, which hopes to set a new land speed world record of 1,000mph, has helped involve around 100,000 children a year in Bloodhound related activities and lessons. It has worked also with Primary Engineer, which has partnered with Sussex University to challenge school children to ‘invent something they’d like to create if they were an engineer’.

The university says: “Designed to motivate all children and young people to view engineering as a real and attractive option as they grow up, the first ever South East England Special Leaders Award challenges pupils aged 5-19 to research and learn more about engineering and its profound impact on the world around them, and to meet and interview practising engineers from a wide range of fields.”

Research at the university, which is also using robots to inspire the next generation of engineers – has found that girls “can match and even exceed boys’ performance on coding activities, given the right tools”. As such, The University’s School of Engineering and Informatics have staged ‘Robogals’ days where schoolgirls get to work with robots and build and programme their own robots using LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits.

Commenting on the initiative Dr Kate Howland, lecturer in Interaction Design, said: “It is hugely important that young people, and girls in particular, get a sense of the exciting and creative activities that can be done in computer science and engineering.

“The University has a strong track record in turning out some of the top engineers of our time and we want to ensure that we have just as many women represented as men.”