The UK aerospace industry contributes billions of pounds to our economy each year. It is the largest in Europe and only second to the US internationally. Global growth in this sector faces a number of challenges such as legislation, reduction of costs, energy efficiency and increased demands on the labour market.

We have considerable experience in materials, assembly and automation for aerospace manufacturing. Current areas of research include:

  • Airframes – assembly and systems installation for aero structures.
  • Process Optimisation – contemporary use of metrology for the innovation of jigs and fixtures.
  • Joining Technology – structural joint design for carbon fibre structures, adhesive bonding automation for jig-less assembly. Carbon fibre to metallic joint design.
  • Composites Manufacturing Technology – automated pre-forming and resin injection processing of fabrics and textiles for liquid moulding technology such as resin transfer and vacuum infusion moulding. Structures design for manufacture.
  • Human Factors – close integration of people and automation such as HMI and HRI.
  • Manufacturing Cost Modelling – risk estimation methods and models for components and processes as well as cost control.
  • Composites Manufacturing Process Modelling – resin flow simulation, curing of polymers, fabric coverage of surfaces and manufacturing defects.

We are an academic partner of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Composites (CIMComp) alongside Nottingham, Bristol and Manchester universities. CIMComp is the focus for fundamental innovative composites manufacturing research in the UK, underpinning the development of next-generation composites manufacturing processes based on low cost, short cycle times, efficiency and sustainability.

We are also an academic partner in the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Intelligent Automation working alongside Loughborough University to develop advanced automation solutions. Key partners in the Centre include Airbus and Rolls Royce.

About our research

Our greatest strength is the ability to combine the academic rigour and long-term perspective of a university with the commercial and business focus of industry.

Our excellence in strategic and applied research has enabled us to make significant contributions to the world around us for over 60 years. We address real life challenges and focus on research that is of strategic and practical importance.

We provide a supportive research community for students and our academic work is regularly published in journal article, book or thesis form.

Our facilities

Our Aero-structure Assembly and Systems Installation Laboratory is a unique facility for research into systems installation and the assembly of airframe and aero-engine structures. The focus of the laboratory is a full-scale wing assembly jig allowing assembly concepts to be developed and investigated under realistic conditions. The laboratory is well equipped with a range of industrial robots that can be configured in individual and collaborative cells. The physical elements are well supported by software resources allowing many research solutions to be investigated virtually.

For our human factors research, we possess state of the art equipment such as eye tracking, motion capture and CAD human modelling.

Our composites manufacturing facilities are the best-equipped amongst UK universities. Extensive laboratories with associated equipment include an autoclave and resin transfer moulding (RTM) injection facilities for pre-preg and liquid composite moulding manufacture. Automated equipment extends our capabilities in relation to pre-preg tape laying and vacuum forming of composite parts.

Working with us

Our strength in working with industry is our ability to provide impartial expert advice across aerospace manufacturing from technology to human factors. We are able to view the entire process to make appropriate and practical recommendations which can be immediately implemented within organisations.

We can design, build and test aero-structures and their components for feasibility and optimisation. This includes demonstrator structures. We can test and validate against various structural performance and cost criteria.

Our experts in industrial ergonomics are actively researching automation within aerospace manufacturing using techniques such as skills capture to understanding what can be automated and what can be implemented using collaborative automation.