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Digital Propulsion: Significant UK R&D programme positions Dowty Propellers and its customers for world-beating, sustainable, next generation hybrid platforms
Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Dowty Propellers, a global leader in composite propeller systems, has announced the successful completion of its largest ever propeller R&D programme.

Dowty led the four-year Digital Propulsion (DigiProp) research and development programme in collaboration with three of seven of the UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres. This was an ambitious £20m project, part funded by the UK government, that sought to innovate every aspect of the design, manufacture and testing of its propeller systems.

Dowty Propellers collaborated with three UK innovation centres on the DigiProp project. The National Composites Centre (NCC), The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and The University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC); all members of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The partners offered subject matter expertise on both established and emerging technologies, allowing Dowty Propellers to unlock some of the best next generation capabilities and innovations that the UK has to offer.

"This project has delivered innovations in propulsion performance and cost through design and productivity which has helped to transform R&D for propellers," said Mark Scully, Head of Technology for Advanced Systems & Propulsion at the Aerospace Technology Institute. "With the assistance of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult partners, the manufacturing innovation has been deployed into the new state-of-the-art Dowty facility in Gloucester. This provides an excellent foundation for Dowty and the UK to secure future sustainable aerospace opportunities."

Some of the many areas explored with partners during the project include:

- The introduction of a digital twin during the development of Dowty Propellers' new factory not only optimised the factory's footprint but also identified process bottlenecks. The outputs deliver reduced manufacturing time and energy consumption, improved first time yield performance, and accelerated time to market for customers.

- Composites and manufacturing expertise transferred the complex technology of triaxial braiding into industrial reality, leveraging the directional properties of advanced thermoplastic composites to deliver performance and strength, while maximising the benefits of lightweight properties to enable an overall blade weight reduction. Thermoplastic composites can also be recycled by being melted down and formed into another product, therefore reducing waste and reusing tooling, supporting our drive to a carbon neutral future.

Dowty Propellers is now beginning to use the next generation technologies realised in DigiProp for evolving aircraft applications and to target next generation platforms. Potential customers are benefiting from its ability to support customer attribute trade studies with short turnaround time on performance analysis.

DigiProp would not have been possible without support and funding from the ATI Programme, a joint Government and industry investment to maintain and grow the UK's competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture. The programme, delivered through a partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK, addresses technology, capability and supply chain challenges.

Contact details from our directory:
Dowty Propellers Composite Propellers, Synchrophasers
NCC National Composites Centre Composite Manufacturing Services, Composite Design Consultants, Composite Testing Services, Research/Consulting Services, Trade Organisations
Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) Research/Consulting Services
University of Sheffield AMRC Research/Consulting Services, Academic Institutions, Technical/Eng/Scientific Studies, Metal & Alloy Castings, Titanium, Composite Manufacturing Services, Sensors/Transducers
ATI Aerospace Technology Institute Airframer, Research/Consulting Services, Technical/Eng/Scientific Studies
Related directory sectors:
Rotors & Propellers