Rolls-Royce casts partnership with Birmingham

Rolls-Royce has launched two strategic partnerships with the University of Birmingham that expand the work scope of the materials technology centre established there in 1991.

The new partnerships, which will focus on casting technology and process modelling, build on the existing University Technology Centre (UTC) in Materials operated by Rolls-Royce and the university. They mark the establishment of new research facilities and the recruitment of key professorial staff to head the research teams.

Ric Parker, Rolls-Royce’s Director of Research and Technology, said: ‘Modern manufacturing methods are vital to Rolls-Royce in achieving maximum quality while minimising the quantity of often-precious and scarce raw materials. Casting is one of the oldest forms of metal forming, yet there are still exciting new technological developments. The combination of modern manufacturing techniques and computers harnessed to provide effective process modelling is unbeatable.’

Professor Paul Bowen, Director of the Birmingham Materials UTC, said: ‘The new partnerships will augment our position as a world-leading centre of excellence for the development of key structural materials. Each will also bring a new focus to the training of engineers, technologists and modellers in the science and technology of manufacturing, and will act as a further hub for collaboration with many other research providers. The university, and the school of engineering, is pleased to underpin these initiatives.’

The casting partnership was established through an initiative jointly funded by Rolls-Royce and EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). It has led to the appointment of Professor Nick Green to the Chair in Casting Technology, and will act as a key supplier of vital casting manufacturing technology to Rolls-Royce, which has five aerospace foundries on three continents.

Its remit is to develop step-change technologies and to provide incremental process improvements to all aspects of mould making and casting. A highly instrumented production-scale furnace, capable of producing single crystal turbine blades for use in the hottest regions of jet engines, further enhances Birmingham’s casting research laboratory.

The process modelling partnership will involve collaboration by the University of Birmingham, Rolls-Royce and the ESI-Group, together with hardware partners IBM, OCF and AMD. This group has agreed to build a technical consortium to perform research in the simulation of manufacturing processes, with emphasis on welding, casting, heat treatment and forming operations but potentially to include other manufacturing disciplines.

A new computing and simulation laboratory has been set up in the Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) for Net-Shape Manufacturing on the University’s campus. This activity, led by Professor Roger Reed, will focus on modelling the structural behaviour and properties of materials during processing and as finished components and assemblies.