Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Future of Manufacturing


Manufacturing has a key role to play in economic growth, particularly in driving exports and productivity, and in rebalancing the UK economy. It also brings a number of other benefits to the UK in terms of societal value and contribution to national resilience.

The nature of manufacturing and its role in the UK and global economies is going through a period of change.

As with a number of developed economies, the manufacturing share of the UK economy has declined, from 22% of GDP in 1990 to around 10% today. New industries and technologies are emerging. There is increased competition and changing demand for products and services.

The Future of Manufacturing project will provide a timely and fresh look at the long-term picture for the manufacturing sector out to 2050, investigating global trends and drivers of change.

Leading experts

The project calls on industry and academic expertise from the UK and abroad to explore how the UK can maximise key opportunities and mitigate risks. In doing so, it will provide a robust evidence base to help ensure that policy decisions taken today are resilient in an uncertain future.

The Government Office for Science Foresight programme leads the project, under the direction of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, is the project sponsor Minister.

A Lead Expert Group (LEG) of eminent academic and private sector experts from a range of disciplines works alongside the Foresight team to help guide the project and secure a strong evidence base. A High Level Stakeholder Group (HLSG), chaired by Vince Cable, will advise on the strategic direction and impact. Find out more about the LEG. Members of the HLSG will be announced in early 2012.

The project’s fresh thinking, innovative evidence base and futures analysis will help inform policy makers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and a range of other relevant departments throughout the project and beyond.

Technology and Innovation Futures: Growth Opportunities for the 2020s

Technology and Innovation Futures (PDF, 824 Kb) is a forward look at a range of developments which have the potential over the next 20 years to support sustained economic growth in the UK. As the UK comes out of the economic downturn, it seems likely that future economic prosperity will derive in large part from seizing opportunities offered by technologies such as these.

The report concludes that there are strong opportunities for growth in the UK economy through the 2020s if businesses can harness scientific and industrial capabilities to take advantage of technology developments and identifies three potential areas of growth which could be transformative: manufacturing, infrastructure and the internet.

Other areas highlighted by the report are the energy transition which the UK will undergo during the next 10-20 years, the UK’s R&D efforts in new materials which could help realise the move to a low carbon economy, the potential of the market for regenerative medicine and the increasing importance of intellectual property - all of which offer opportunities for UK companies.

The evidence base used in the TIF project was gathered by deskwork, interviews with 25 leading figures from research and business, and five workshops involving 150 academics, industrialists, experts from the private sector and Government. The workshops used a range of futures techniques to provoke and structure discussions and the outputs of the workshops were considered and refined through further desk-work.

Click technology annex.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

programme this summer to evaluate open-rotor jet engines
GE and NASA to begin wind-tunnel test programme this summer to evaluate open-rotor jet engines | GE, CFM, open rotor engines, engines

The refurbished NASA test rig (photo: GE)
Following the refurbishment of a special test rig at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, engine manufacturer GE Aviation and NASA will begin wind-tunnel testing of counter-rotating fan-blade systems for open-rotor jet engine designs this summer. The open-rotor engine has been touted by both GE and rival Rolls-Royce as a possible next-generation engine for narrowbody aircraft because of its potential for substantial reductions in fuel consumption and emissions of CO2 and NOx. However, the prime challenge for them both is to arrest the significant increase in engine noise levels posed by the open design.
NASA’s test rig was actually used in the 1980s when NASA and GE first tested scale-model, counter-rotating fan systems that led to the development of the open-rotor GE36 engine. GE successfully ground-tested and flew an open-rotor jet engine – then called an unducted fan (UDF) – that demonstrated fuel savings of more than 30% compared to similar-sized, conventional engines. The design was prompted by a surge in the oil price at the time but was shelved once the price fell back.
Although a similar scenario has been repeated with the price of crude oil falling from a peak of nearly $150 per barrel to nearer $30 earlier this year, circumstances are different this time round. The price has now risen sharply back to around $70 and could go higher still once the global recession begins to play itself out and, as important, the environmental imperative is so much stronger now than it was over 20 years ago.
GE says it has dramatically advanced its computational aero-acoustic analysis tools since then to better understand and improve open-rotor systems. The manufacturer stresses the programme will not involve full engine testing but will be a component rig test to evaluate subscale fan systems.
GE and the Fundamental Aeronautics Program of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington are jointly funding the testing, with Snecma of France – GE’s partner in CFM International – participating with fan blade designs. For the NASA testing, which will essentially re-enact the 1980s tests, GE will run two rows of counter-rotating fan blades, with 12 blades in the front row and 10 blades in the back row.
As new and more exotic fan blade designs are run in the wind tunnel, GE and NASA say they will be able to better understand how these designs will perform in an actual operating environment.
“These tests will help to tell us how confident we are in meeting the technical challenges of an open-rotor architecture. It’s a journey driven by a need to sharply reduce fuel consumption in future aircraft,” said David Joyce, President of GE Aviation.
Open-rotor jet engine designs are among the longer-term technologies being evaluated for LEAP-X, CFM International’s technology programme focusing on future advances for next-generation CFM56 engines.
Boeing Successfully Flies Fuel Cell-Powered Airplane
test flight of a manned airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells

test flight of a manned airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells

Boeing announced that it has, for the first time in aviation history, flown a manned airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The recent milestone is the work of an engineering team at Boeing Research & Technology Europe (BR&TE) in Madrid, with assistance from industry partners in Austria, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"Boeing is actively working to develop new technologies for environmentally progressive aerospace products," said Francisco Escarti, BR&TE's managing director. "We are proud of our pioneering work during the past five years on the Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane project. It is a tangible example of how we are exploring future leaps in environmental performance, as well as a credit to the talents and innovative spirit of our team."

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts hydrogen directly into electricity and heat with none of the products of combustion such as carbon dioxide. Other than heat, water is its only exhaust.

A two-seat Dimona motor-glider with a 16.3 meter (53.5 foot) wingspan was used as the airframe. Built by Diamond Aircraft Industries of Austria, it was modified by BR&TE to include a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell/lithium-ion battery hybrid system to power an electric motor coupled to a conventional propeller.

Three test flights took place in February and March at the airfield in Ocaña, south of Madrid, operated by the Spanish company SENASA.

During the flights, the pilot of the experimental airplane climbed to an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level using a combination of battery power and power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Then, after reaching the cruise altitude and disconnecting the batteries, the pilot flew straight and level at a cruising speed of 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) for approximately 20 minutes on power solely generated by the fuel cells.

According to Boeing researchers, PEM fuel cell technology potentially could power small manned and unmanned air vehicles. Over the longer term, solid oxide fuel cells could be applied to secondary power-generating systems, such as auxiliary power units for large commercial airplanes. Boeing does not envision that fuel cells will ever provide primary power for large passenger airplanes, but the company will continue to investigate their potential, as well as other sustainable alternative fuel and energy sources that improve environmental performance.

BR&TE, part of the Boeing Phantom Works advanced R&D unit, has worked closely with Boeing Commercial Airplanes and a network of partners since 2003 to design, assemble and fly the experimental craft.

The group of companies, universities and institutions participating in this project includes:

  • Austria -- Diamond Aircraft Industries
  • France -- SAFT France
  • Germany -- Gore and MT Propeller
  • Spain -- Adventia, Aerlyper, Air Liquide Spain, Indra, Ingeniería de Instrumentación y Control (IIC), Inventia, SENASA, Swagelok, Técnicas Aeronauticas de Madrid (TAM), Tecnobit, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and the Regional Government of Madrid
  • United Kingdom -- Intelligent Energy
  • United States -- UQM Technologies.