ARCHIVED - Helping aerospace suppliers compete
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May 05, 2009— Boucherville, Quebec
Canadian manufacturers of aerospace materials and components will soon benefit from top-tier scientific expertise through the NRC Advanced Materials Initiative (AMI). This four-year $6 million targeted research program will help Canadian manufacturers develop and integrate new high-performance polymer composites and surface technologies in products for airplanes, cars and other manufactured goods. Through this initiative, NRC aims to help Canadian parts manufacturers and materials suppliers seize a bigger chunk of business in the global supply chain.
"The Advanced Materials Initiative was born out of the extensive consultations NRC conducted in 2006 and 2007 with researchers and engineers from the aerospace, automotive and construction sectors," says Blaise Labrecque of the NRC Industrial Materials Institute. "We held workshops across the country to find out what new technologies were needed, and what gaps and technical barriers existed. Two needs that several industry sectors expressed were areas of technology in which NRC could offer multidisciplinary expertise: composite materials and surface technologies."
The Advanced Materials Initiative (AMI) will help Canadian firms supplying materials and components to the aerospace, automotive and construction industries. AMI is part of the NRC Manufacturing and Materials Engineering Key Sector Strategy.
The objective for the aerospace sector is to help suppliers provide leading-edge materials and components to giants such as Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Bell Helicopter, as well as aerospace firms abroad. "Since the big firms buy components from specialized suppliers across the world, Canadian companies need to meet those needs and compete more effectively in the global market," says Labrecque.
NRC expects to collaborate with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as well as small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) interested in gaining a competitive edge in advanced materials. Although the aerospace, automotive and construction sectors will benefit most strongly, the energy and biomedical sectors also see clear applications for high-performance composite materials and surface technologies.
Research projects will range in value from $500,000 to $1,500,000, with costs shared between NRC and its industry partners. "To qualify for funding under AMI, a project must benefit one of the key sectors NRC has identified. It must also require collaboration from more than one NRC institute," says Labrecque. "By bringing in experts from several of our institutes, we can offer multidisciplinary expertise to address advanced technology challenges. It's a better proposition for industry."
Advanced polymer composites
The Canadian polymer composites industry has an estimated annual business volume of about $4 billion. The production of components essential to the aerospace and transportation sectors is a large portion of this business.
The aerospace and transportation industries are seeking ways to reduce the weight and cost of materials, while increasing their resistance to heat and corrosion. Lighter, stronger materials would help to reduce fuel consumption and maintenance. If new polymer composite materials can be recycled or produced from renewable resources, then environmental goals could also be met.
These industries also want help to address technical challenges. For example, new low-cost processes and tooling would be required to produce high-performance composite materials. Industry will need solutions for using bio-based materials and reusing composites. There is also great interest in integrating new nanomaterials that enhance the properties of polymers. NRC has the expertise to address all of these challenges.
Advanced coatings and other surface technologies
Canada is a major producer of airplane landing gear and turbine engines, where coatings are heavily used. Canadian producers would benefit strongly from the development of advanced coatings that improve performance and extend the life of parts, saving operational and maintenance dollars.
NRC has the required expertise to help industry develop advanced coating solutions for improved performance, as well as environmentally acceptable alternatives to cadmium, lead and chromium.
"NRC has already applied for a patent to protect its own nano-structured thermal barrier coating technology," says Dr. Christian Moreau, who leads the surface technologies component of AMI. "Turbine engines are more efficient at higher combustion temperatures, but higher temperatures wear out metal," he explains. "An advanced coating will allow turbine engines to run longer at higher temperatures, on less fuel."
Through AMI, private Canadian aerospace companies will work with NRC to refine this thermal barrier technology before taking it to market.
Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada
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