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'Enhanced Low-Cost Automation Technologies'

ELCAT sets out to enable flexible manufacturing systems without the need for expensive "black box" integration. The project comprises of two parts, one virtual and one physical.  In the physical space a rapid, automatically reconfigurable tooling system was conceived in-house to meet, aerospace assembly requirements. This solution is lower cost than existing assembly fixtures and enables the use of automated processes. In the virtual space, a common framework architecture has been developed to enable virtual commissioning and control of automated processes. The project utilises the Omnifactory physical and digital infrastructure and will be demonstrated at TRL5 in the facility in Nottingham. 

Omni Factory Robots. Photography by Alex Wilkinson Media (46 of 54).jpg

"GKN  and the University of Nottingham jointly developed the vision for the ELCAT project by fusing real-world industrial experience with game-changing theoretical proposals backed by academic analysis. Now the Omnifactory will allow this thinking to be taken to a point of physical reality, maturing and de-risking the associated technology threads to a level ready for development and adoption in GKN". 

Andrew Portsmore, Technology Director - Assembly Systems, GKN Aerospace


'Space Manufacturing, Assembly & Repair Technology, Exploration and Realisation'

The need for a reconfigurable autonomous manufacturing facility in space stemmed from the changing paradigm of space operations and the development of new smart manufacturing technologies and capabilities. The SMARTER project brought together teams from both manufacturing and space technology backgrounds to enable novel collaborations and demonstrate the technical feasibility of manufacturing in space by considering how these two different areas of industry could be combined. The program aimed to identify key gaps in technology that would enable this concept of a 'factory in space' and identified that resolving such gaps could reduce launch costs, and as a proposal, be a major enabler for the wider exploration of space, and improving mission sustainability through the extension of the useful life of assets launched into space. 


"BAE explicitly enrolled the University of Nottingham for the purpose of its knowledge in burgeoning smart manufacturing architecture methodologies, and some excellent work and shared learning was undertaken (WP4). We were particularly pleased with the written output that was produced by the University of Nottingham - it took what is an extremely complex adjoining of conflicting technology requirements and voiced it in a way that could be explained to any interested party". 

James Leadbetter, Collaborative Programs Lead and IIoT Theme  Lead, BAE Systems Technology Capability Delivery


'Made Smarter Innovation Research Centre for Connected Factories' 

Adapt, Repurpose, Relocate, Reuse - Connected Factories provides the unique opportunity to marry fundamental research with industrially relevant applied demonstrations to create a blueprint for the manufacturing infrastructure of the future. 


The project will deliver a platform for the next generation of resilient connected manufacturing services, allowing future manufacturing operations to be delivered by ubiquitous production units that can be easily repurposed, relocated and redeployed in response to changing market demand. 

IFAM research photos at the University of Nottingham. Photos by Alex Wilkinson Media (112

"Digital technologies have the power to radically transform how we manufacture and deliver the products and services of today and the future, delivering a productive, sustainable and flexible manufacturing sector and enhancing the future of work within it". 

Chris Courtney, Made Smarter Innovation Challenge Director


' Advanced Wing Structure for Rotocrfat Additional Lift Demonstrator'

The ASTRAL project delivered the novel wing structures for RACER, the Airbus Helicopters' future fast rotorcraft flying demonstrator. Hamble Aerostructures and the University of Nottingham collaborated to design and manufacture the wings, utilising state-of-the-art technologies to reduce aircraft weight and improve performance, resulting in a significant reduction in fuel burn and emissions. The project specifically focused on new digital design and simulation techniques, combines with highly efficient, quality-driven, cost-effective manufacturing solutions that were rigorously tested and validated to deliver the underlining technologies for a world-leading future rotorcraft wing. 


"The collaboration with the University of Nottingham has been pivotal to the digital industrial assembly and integration success of the ASTRAL Wings, Nacelles and Flaps structures. Co-development of Model-Based Engineering & Simulation techniques in the Omnifactory synthetic environment has been a fundamental advancement in our technology roadmap and improvement in our industrial footprint". 

Philip Scott, Head of Design, Research & Development - Hamble Aerostructures 


'Reimaging the Assembly of Fuselage Structures'

Novel airframe assembly philosophies aim to reduce development and manufacturing lead times, increase productivity, and enable an agile response to product variation or changes in demand. 

Through this project, the optimisation of facility architecture for variable rate assembly will be developed and demonstrated. The utilisation of large-volume, con-contact metrology will support the assembly of adaptively machined structural components. The project will validate the use of workpiece positioners in aerospace assembly as part of a reconfigurable assembly system by assembling a fuselage demonstrator in the Omnifactory environment.

Omni Factory Robots. Photography by Alex Wilkinson Media (10 of 54).jpg
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