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Warton will bring digital technology to Tempest production
Monday, 13 July 2020
High tech manufacturing methods already used for the Typhoon will be applied to the Tempest program, with co-operative robots and virtual reality at the core. Development and manufacturing will be faster than ever.

A new facility at Warton, Lancashire, will be a first-of-its-kind 'industry 4.0' factory for aircraft manuafacture, says BAE Systems. It will apply game-changing digital technologies to advance manufacturing on the UK's next generation combat aircraft system, the Tempest.

The factory is the result of a multi-million pound investment and collaboration with more than 40 blue chip and SME companies along with academic institutions, bringing together advanced manufacturing technologies and transforming engineering processes. Automated robots, virtual and augmented reality will increase speed, precision and efficiencies, as well as reduce the costs associated with the manufacture of complex military aircraft structures.

The factory also demonstrates a new approach to the way humans and machines can operate together. Cobotic (co-operative robotic) and flexible robotic technologies remove the need for heavy, fixed, long-lead tooling and can quickly switch from the manufacture of one item or platform to another. Intelligent machines and off-the-shelf robotic technology from the automotive industry have been modified to operate at the precise tolerances required for military aircraft, which are less than a third the width of a human hair on some of our programmes.

Such technology drives greater productivity by allowing operators to focus on more highly-skilled and strategic tasks and production managers to oversee operations from a fully digitised, virtual office, says BAE Systems.

The new facility underpins efforts of the UK-led Tempest programme to meet the UK's ambition to remain at the forefront of the combat air sector by delivering more cost-effectively and in half the time of previous programmes.

Dave Holmes, manufacturing director for BAE Systems Air, says: "We've collaborated with the best of UK industry and academia to develop a cutting-edge facility that combines current and emerging technologies, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of combat air technology development.

"Driving our manufacturing capabilities forward as we prepare for the fourth industrial revolution, will sustain and develop critical skillsets and ensure we can continue to deliver military capability to address future threats, whilst improving productivity and delivering value for money for our customers."

Technologies inside the factory are already delivering benefits. The intelligent workstation, developed in collaboration with The University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Fairfield Control Systems, is in use on the Typhoon production line. It uses a system which recognises operators and automatically delivers tailored instructions using 'pick by light' technologies. In addition, additive manufacturing technologies are being used in the production of Typhoon aircraft parts and assemblies.

Contact details from our directory:
BAE Systems Air Additive Manufacturing, Aircraft Structural Components, Computer-aided Engineering
University of Sheffield AMRC Academic Institutions, Technical/Eng/Scientific Studies, Metal & Alloy Castings, Titanium, Composite Manufacturing Services
Related aircraft programs:
BAE Tempest
Related directory sectors:
Computer Integrated Manufacturing