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MATERIALS TESTING


UK Marine


Engineering giant joins academic partnership to create cross industry composite test facility in Scotland.


Aerospace & Marine Materials Test Facility


partnership between the University of Edinburgh (UoE) and Babcock International. The “Fastblade” facility will be based


A


at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard and forms part of the company’s wider plans around innovation, technology and composite research. According to Babcock, Fastblade’s primary aim is to increase development speed for materials and structures for predominantly the marine and aerospace industries, as well as for transport and the nuclear industry.


TIDAL BLADE TESTING One unique element of Fastblade will be its capability of carrying out large-scale accelerated life testing of tidal blades, large composite components used on marine turbines. Testing will use complex forces that simulate real environments, limiting the risks for product developers. Babcock is the principal engineering designer of the Fastblade centre, which will test new materials within full-scale structures such as tidal blades, aeroplane components and bridge sections. The initial testing will be on tidal blades, but the international appeal of the facility and its wider aims will mean testing can


£2.4 million state of the art engineering composite test centre is being developed in Scotland as part of an industrial


take place across many industries. Engineering researchers will use efficient hydraulic technology that enables structures to be tested significantly faster and using less energy compared with existing technologies. The system will recover energy between load cycles, reducing the cost of testing.


ACADEMIC PARTNERSHIP Initially, the UoE approached Babcock in search of the appropriate engineering design expertise combined with specialist facilities so that they could progress from the research phase to reality. According to Neil Young of Babcock, Rosyth fulfils both of these key requirements within a single location. “Our focus has been to optimise the design of the reaction frame to which the composite structure is mounted, and we’ve done this in partnership with Edinburgh,” he says. The design also included upgrading the foundation design in the building to accommodate the additional loads imposed by the fatigue testing. “For us, this really is a great industrial


partnership. Our engineers, working alongside the University’s renowned academics, have shown what can be achieved by working together in such a way. Whilst we are still at the early stages of development, we are creating something that will have real benefits


❱ ❱ The Fastblade composite structure test facility at Rosyth will be ideal for


testing large, complex components such as tidal blades and airframe structures


for all the companies using the facility in years to come,” continues Young. Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh,


Head of School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh and leader of the research activity, said: “This collaboration is an opportunity to develop a world-class engineering facility to accelerate and support the development of new efficient technologies.”


BLADE STRUCTURE OPTIMISATION Being of particular benefit to the marine and aerospace sectors, the facility will have the benefit of examining the behaviour of large composite structures with complex forms and will be of great benefit to the tidal energy sector, according to Ó Brádaigh. Pioneering measurement systems will enable developers to learn from test datasets to understand damage accumulation and optimise blade structures through data-driven design. Funding for the facility was received


in part from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the University of Edinburgh. As well as co-ordinating the project, Babcock is the principal designer and host of the facility. The project takes advantage of the large pool of marine expertise available in the region and places a state of the art cross- industry materials testing facility at the heart of Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard.


Aerospace Test & Validation Vol 2 No. 1 /// 5


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