Rotherham expertise spreads to north-east

MANUFACTURING processes developed and refined in Rotherham are providing the driving force behind engineering giant Rolls-Royce’s latest hi-tech facility.

The company recently marked the beginning of construction of its new advanced aerospace disc manufacturing facility in Washington, Tyne and Wear with a groundbreaking ceremony conducted by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable.

When fully operational, the 20,000 sq m disc manufacturing facility — which uses expertise honed at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Catcliffe — is expected to begin production in late 2013.  

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The facility will have capacity to manufacture over 2,000 fan and turbine discs a year.

Fan discs and turbine discs are at the heart of the engine, operating at high stress in extreme conditions providing the engine’s thrust.

They provide the power for a wide range of aircraft including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A380 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The manufacturing techniques which will be used at the facility have been developed at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), at the AMP in Rotherham.

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Working with Rolls-Royce engineers, AMRC specialists helped to significantly reduce the machining time of the turbine discs.

This has led to major efficiency savings and made it worthwhile to retain the production within the UK.

The AMRC is part of a network of research centres which aim to work with businesses to apply university research to accelerate the commercialisation of new and emerging manufacturing technologies.

Simon Spode, marketing manager at the AMP, added: “It is good to see technology and processes developed at the AMP being rolled out into industry.

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“It has always been an ethos of the AMP to help UK companies to remain competitive in a global economy.

“This is a great example of where the AMRC's machining expertise is helping Rolls-Royce to improve productivity and so remain competitive from its UK facilities.”

Turbine discs hold blades in the hottest part of the engine where the operating conditions are at their most severe.

This requires use of some of the strongest materials available, made from refined powders specially processed and machined to the accuracy of a fraction of the thickness of a human hair.