NDT for high-value manufacturing of composites

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

Non-destructive testing (NDT) underpins much of the UK's manufacturing industry, particularly the high-value and specialist composite-manufacturing industry in which the UK is aiming to significantly expand its market share. Academic composites experts, manufacturers and end-users of composite components all agree that a step change in NDT of composites is required to maximise the weight-saving benefits of high-performance composites and ensure the UK can compete aggressively in future composites manufacturing. The UK's high academic ranking and industrial base in the areas of composites and NDT offer a compelling opportunity for the establishment of a UK-based academic research group specialising in the NDT of composites and aimed at assurance of manufacturing quality and process optimisation. This Manufacturing Fellowship would establish such a group at the University of Bristol, which is ideally positioned both geographically - in the heart of the aerospace manufacturing region - and organisationally, being linked with the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the UK Research Centre for Non-destructive Evaluation (RCNDE). In collaboration with two academic groups at Bristol - Ultrasonics and NDT, and the Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS) - and the NCC with its industrial partners, the fellowship will demonstrate how focused, industrially relevant, academic research can meet this manufacturing need and bring rapid benefit to the UK composites manufacturing industry. After 29 years of experience in R&D related to the NDT of composites, I have been recognised as an international authority on the subject amongst academics and industrialists alike. World-class research status for this new group is therefore a realistic objective for a five-year fellowship, positioning the group well for expanding by attracting future funding from a range of sources. But the research challenges are significant in this field, due primarily to the way that the anisotropic, inhomogeneous, layered composite structures respond to, and modify, any interrogating field. For this reason the work programme includes underpinning tasks to develop models and novel inversion algorithms, as well as tasks to apply these to complex structures being produced by the UK composites manufacturers. Other particular features of the programme are the work packages on NDT for in-process and pre-process composites, and combining NDT information with materials models and structural integrity philosophies - a holistic approach to using advanced non-destructive 3D-characterisation methods to benefit the composites manufacturing industry. The result will be optimised lighter-weight structures, reduced scrap and fewer repairs at the manufacturing stage, and greater use of out-of-autoclave and lower-cost manufacturing methods.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit?

This fellowship will meet real manufacturing needs and benefit, primarily, the aerospace composites and wind-turbine manufacturing industries. 3D characterisation of defects will reduce scrap and repair rates whilst in-process NDT will detect problems prior to the expensive cure stage. The move to capability-provision sales philosophies such as Airbus's 'Flight Hour Services', Rolls Royce's 'Power by the Hour' and Vestas's 'Active Output Management', means these new NDT technologies will provide a higher availability of aircraft, engines and wind turbines.
The National Composites Centre (NCC), a partner in this fellowship, represents its industrial members in transitioning technology. I have already taken the lead in establishing an 'NDT of Composites' programme at the NCC - a rolling programme of NDT validation and qualification as well as standards and training development for new technologies. Currently, 7 composites manufacturers have expressed interest in joining the programme - Rolls Royce, Airbus, GKN, Agusta Westland, Bombardier, BAE Systems and Vestas. The involvement of staff from the partner manufacturers, based at NCC, will play a key role in introducing the new NDT solutions from the fellowship into manufacturing plants, of which NCC is one. The industrial beneficiaries of the fellowship will be involved in guiding the research via a Research Advisory Group (RAG) and the Statements of Support indicate willingness to collaborate in this way.
Industrial, government and academic members of the UK Research Centre for NDE (RCNDE) will benefit from this EPSRC Fellowship in Manufacturing leading the way to bridging the technology-transfer gap between academia and industry. A strong collaborative network between academia and industry has already been established by RCNDE, which is itself run by ex-industrialists who understand the need for research to be relevant, focused on real needs, and usable.

How will they benefit?

The benefit that this fellowship will provide is as follows:
1. Improved quality control and reduced weight through 3D fibre-orientation mapping for complex and large structures.
2. Less scrap, fewer repairs and lighter structures from:
- 3D porosity mapping allowing 3D location-dependent acceptance criteria
- better-informed 'concession' decisions by integrating new 3D-characterisation NDT with materials models.
3. Greater use of lower-cost composite manufacturing methods facilitated by in-process NDT and NDT-based process control.
4. Either reduced-weight designs or the use of lower-cost manufacturing methods (depending on the industry drivers) as a result of a reduced 'BVID' threshold, through either NDT-assisted impact dent detection, or permanently installed sensing technology for reporting impacts.
Also, the travelling public will benefit from improved, faster, cheaper air travel and renewable power, and a greener environment.
Key to the composites manufacturing industry being able to implement new NDT technologies from the fellowship will be the tackling of barriers to technology transfer such as the lack of standards and training material, and the need to validate and qualify automated NDT techniques.
Three routes to bridging this technology transfer gap are through: 1) RCNDE, 2) NCC and 3) influential UK bodies such as the British Institute of NDT (BINDT) and the new NDT-SIG of the Materials KTN.
RCNDE recognises that a significant technology-transfer barrier is qualification of new technologies. This has been neglected in the UK where we rely on foreign expertise for methodologies to determine the reliability of techniques. As a visionary leader within RCNDE I will facilitate change and close the gap between technology push and industry pull.
My presidential role in BINDT will help me to establish a sample library and greater UK involvement in international standards as well as training and certification for new NDT technologies.

Publications


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Nelson, L.J. (2014) Three-dimensional fibre-orientation characterisation in monolithic carbon-fibre composites in Proc. European Conference on NDT, 2014.
Nelson, L.J. (2014) Methods for fibre-orientation characterisation in monolithic carbon-fibre composites in Proc. NDT 2014, Annual Conf. of the British Inst. of NDT.
Smith R (2015) Progress in 3D characterisation and modelling of monolithic carbon-fibre composites in Insight - Non-Destructive Testing and Condition Monitoring
SMITH R A (2016) Non-destructive characterisation of composite microstructures in JEC Composites Magazine
 
Description We have developed new ways to relate ultrasonic non-destructive testing of composite materials to the actual internal structure of the material, including any variations from design or defects. The result is 3D maps of various material properties, which can be used to create models of the as-manufactured component, rather than the notional 'as-designed' component. These models can predict the performance in terms of strength.
Exploitation Route The algorithms we have developed have been offered as the pilot scheme for a new Algorithm Deployment Support Service to be established by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). We will work with MTC to develop software engineering documents, which will then be used by industry to embed our public-domain algorithms into their software. MTC will provide a service to test the software and verify conformance to the requirements document.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/engineering/people/robert-a-smith/index.html
 
Description Composite manufacturers currently find it very difficult to detect and measure the various deviations from design, so popular elements of the award's work are its engagement with manufacturers and technology transfer of this capability. The award team is well connected with industry and ran a cross-community 'Workshop on NDT Requirements for Aerospace Composites' in Feb. 2016 at the National Composites Centre (NCC) to capture the future requirements for success of new NDT in aerospace [4] and one for automotive composites in March 2017 at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). A similar requirements workshop is planned for the maritime and renewables sectors in 2018. These workshops have prompted a crucial change in emphasis from verification of 'conformance to design' to process verification to support the 'right first time, every time' objective of NCC and the Future Composites Manufacturing Hub. As evidence of the industrial relevance of the work, an 18-month 100% industry-funded project is just starting, integrating our published algorithms into commercial software from three supply-chain partners and testing against reference data at the MTC. These algorithms have been recognised as world-leading by key aerospace manufacturers, exemplified by the MoD, Rolls Royce, GKN/Fokker Aerospace, Airbus, Boeing and BAE Systems, all of whom have funded, or are funding, the team to evaluate the capability on their components. The techniques represent a step-change improvement in ultrasonic imaging, interpretation of ultrasonic response to composites, and detection, classification and characterisation of defects. Through an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) project, the team has put into the supply chain underpinning ultrasonic data-acquisition capability, which is essential for acquisition of the best ultrasonic data for imaging and inversion. In August 2016, two further EPSRC grants were awarded to the team: a pump-priming feasibility study for the extension of the research to automotive textile composites and an IAA 'proof of principle' project to engage with the automotive industry through 5 partners and a workshop.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport
Impact Types Economic
 
Description University of Bristol Advisory Group on NDT-based Performance Modelling of Composites 
Organisation Airbus Group
Country France, French Republic 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We organise meetings to discuss progress on our research and form consortia to bid for research grants, Innovate UK grants and EPSRC Impact Acceleration projects. Minutes are taken and circulated. From a technical viewpoint we bring fundamental understanding of the interaction of ultrasound and X-ray CT with composite materials.
Collaborator Contribution Partners bring samples and information abut real industry problems.
Impact No direct outcomes yet, although various projects have been funded by industry as a result.
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Bristol Advisory Group on NDT-based Performance Modelling of Composites 
Organisation BAE Systems plc
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We organise meetings to discuss progress on our research and form consortia to bid for research grants, Innovate UK grants and EPSRC Impact Acceleration projects. Minutes are taken and circulated. From a technical viewpoint we bring fundamental understanding of the interaction of ultrasound and X-ray CT with composite materials.
Collaborator Contribution Partners bring samples and information abut real industry problems.
Impact No direct outcomes yet, although various projects have been funded by industry as a result.
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Bristol Advisory Group on NDT-based Performance Modelling of Composites 
Organisation GKN
Department GKN Aerospace
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We organise meetings to discuss progress on our research and form consortia to bid for research grants, Innovate UK grants and EPSRC Impact Acceleration projects. Minutes are taken and circulated. From a technical viewpoint we bring fundamental understanding of the interaction of ultrasound and X-ray CT with composite materials.
Collaborator Contribution Partners bring samples and information abut real industry problems.
Impact No direct outcomes yet, although various projects have been funded by industry as a result.
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Bristol Advisory Group on NDT-based Performance Modelling of Composites 
Organisation Ministry of Defence (MOD)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We organise meetings to discuss progress on our research and form consortia to bid for research grants, Innovate UK grants and EPSRC Impact Acceleration projects. Minutes are taken and circulated. From a technical viewpoint we bring fundamental understanding of the interaction of ultrasound and X-ray CT with composite materials.
Collaborator Contribution Partners bring samples and information abut real industry problems.
Impact No direct outcomes yet, although various projects have been funded by industry as a result.
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Bristol Advisory Group on NDT-based Performance Modelling of Composites 
Organisation Qinetiq
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We organise meetings to discuss progress on our research and form consortia to bid for research grants, Innovate UK grants and EPSRC Impact Acceleration projects. Minutes are taken and circulated. From a technical viewpoint we bring fundamental understanding of the interaction of ultrasound and X-ray CT with composite materials.
Collaborator Contribution Partners bring samples and information abut real industry problems.
Impact No direct outcomes yet, although various projects have been funded by industry as a result.
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Bristol Advisory Group on NDT-based Performance Modelling of Composites 
Organisation Rolls Royce Group Plc
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We organise meetings to discuss progress on our research and form consortia to bid for research grants, Innovate UK grants and EPSRC Impact Acceleration projects. Minutes are taken and circulated. From a technical viewpoint we bring fundamental understanding of the interaction of ultrasound and X-ray CT with composite materials.
Collaborator Contribution Partners bring samples and information abut real industry problems.
Impact No direct outcomes yet, although various projects have been funded by industry as a result.
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Bristol Advisory Group on NDT-based Performance Modelling of Composites 
Organisation Wavelength NDT
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We organise meetings to discuss progress on our research and form consortia to bid for research grants, Innovate UK grants and EPSRC Impact Acceleration projects. Minutes are taken and circulated. From a technical viewpoint we bring fundamental understanding of the interaction of ultrasound and X-ray CT with composite materials.
Collaborator Contribution Partners bring samples and information abut real industry problems.
Impact No direct outcomes yet, although various projects have been funded by industry as a result.
Start Year 2015
 
Description NDT Requirements for Aerospace Composites (Workshop) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I convened, with the help of the British Institute of NDT (of which I am President) a Workshop on NDT and SHM Requirements for Aerospace Composites, which was run over two days at the National Composites Centre. The aim was to establish what is required of NDT and SHM to facilitate game-changing solutions for new, more efficient composite designs and new design and manufacturing processes for both civil and military aircraft. The workshop comprised 17 invited speakers from a broad range of communities: regulators (CAA/EASA/FAA), manufacturers (GKN, Airbus, Rolls Royce, Fokker Aerospace, GE, etc), materials scientists (academia, NPL, NCC), structural-integrity experts, end-users (MoD/DSTL, BA) and NDT service providers (eg. Inspectahire). The outcome was a summary of the workshop giving the future requirements for NDT and SHM in the following document:

R.A. Smith, "Report from the Workshop on NDT and SHM Requirements for Aerospace Composites," British Institute of Non-destructive Testing, ISBN: 978 0 903132 61 3, DOI: 10.1784/book.2016.001, pp 1-19, May, 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bindt.org/events/Aerospace-Workshop-February-2016/aerospace-workshop-february-2016-progra...
 
Description Workshop on NDT Requirements for Automotive Composites, convener, March 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact EPSRC Impact Accelerator-funded workshop to engage with the Automotive sector who are required to meet environmental emission targets and intend to achieve this by light-weighting using composite materials. I convened the workshop inviting 10 representatives from the automotive sector to present on the manufacturing, design, insurance and regulatory requirements where advanced NDT of composites will be necessary. The requirements were then formulated in breakout and panel sessions, culminating in a reportwhich will be published by the British Institute of NDT.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bindt.org/events/composites-workshop-2017/