Design and manufacture of aerospace structures for civil and defence markets

Knowledge Transfer partnership
(TCS Programme 3067) with
GKN Westland Aerospace Limited, Isle of Wight (March 2000-October 2003)

GKN Aerospace Limited at East Cowes on The Isle of Wight is able to produce lower cost, large composite components, having adopted a manufacturing process called Resin Film Infusion (RFI).   The new RFI process and related technologies can potentially replace pre-preg/autoclave composites on major programmes including the Airbus A380 wing.   Five graduates were employed at GKN on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, supported by expertise from the University of Plymouth’s Advanced Composite Manufacturing Centre (ACMC).

Using RFI, two 12m long demonstrator wing spars were produced for mechanical testing, visual inspection and dimensional compliance to design parameters.   These demonstrator spars proved to GKN the feasibility of adopting the RFI manufacturing process for the manufacture of large composite components.   RFI can remove the need for costly autoclaves (heated pressure ovens), allowing larger components to be manufactured, at shorter cycle times and reduced material costs.   Other benefits include:

  • Reduced operating costs
  • 10% new markets
  • 10% new sales
  • Increased profits

The University of Plymouth has gained valuable experience through this collaboration with GKN directly feeding back into the teaching and course content.   Through the University’s unique BEng (Hons) in Composite Materials Engineering, a long established relationship exists between the University and GKN, with several of its graduates currently working within the GKN Group.   The company has also written letters of support for research applications within the field of Composite Engineering, and the company and academics are also in the process of identifying suitable topics to progress through undergraduate final year and post graduate research projects.

“Collaboration with experts from the University of Plymouth has enabled GKN Aerospace, in conjunction with its own resources, to make significant technological strides and secure market share that would otherwise not have been possible” - Phil Grainger, Technical Director and Chief Technologist, GKN Aerospace Services


Low cost composite structures for aerospace
Teaching Company Scheme with GKN Westland Aerospace