Kevin Cummings, CEO GKN Aerospace
What is GKN’s strategy
Our strategy is clear: to develop innovative technologies that are highly valued by our customers and differentiate us in the market place. This differentiating technology, allied to operational excellence (quality products, delivered safely and on time to our customers) and our strong global footprint (more than 55 manufacturing facilities across 14 countries) will enable us to achieve growth for the business.
What R&D projects is GKN involved with?
GKN Aerospace is involved in a wide range of R&D programmes, from ones led by GKN Aerospace such as 'VIEWS', which brings together a number of manufacturing and assembly technologies for wing structures through to 'Horizon' and TAPAS which collaborates with Airbus and our GKN Powder Metallurgy division in developing the research to allow optimisation of powder, equipment and process for additive manufacturing.
What do you think are the most exciting technologies that GKN is working on at the moment?
GKN Aerospace is always working in parallel to deliver great technology to our customers today, while developing the solutions of tomorrow. Additive manufacturing fits both categories and is major focus for us. We already have AM parts flying in civil, military and space craft, and we continue to explore the huge opportunities AM presents for component optimisation. I believe AM will revolutionize manufacturing. On the materials side, we are particularly focused on the next generation of composite technologies, including fibre metal laminate (FML) and thermoplastics, both of which can offer significant strength and weight benefits to our customers. Finally, from a systems perspective, we have some exciting technologies in anti-icing and electrical wiring systems, which will become increasingly important as we move towards more integrated structures.
Where do you think the key R&D investment needs to be focused?
The focus needs to be on improving materials, manufacturing processes and systems to make air transport more efficient, minimising impact on the environment and ever more cost effective. Any technology that contributes to these goals will win in the market.
How do you see the 3D printing industry evolving?
Additive manufacturing (AM) will transform manufacturing across multiple industries, including aerospace. At present AM components are typically smaller, secondary structures, with engineers primarily focused on certifying parts as direct replacements for existing metallic or composite components. In the future, as engineers become more comfortable and the process and materials become better qualified, we will see larger, safety-critical AM components. Furthermore, entirely new component shapes will be introduced as we learn to design for the characteristics of AM, so-called ‘design for AM’. When we can take raw powder and manufacture complex, highly optimised, safety-critical parts, there really are few limits - it will require a total shift in how we think about manufacturing.