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S$60 million lab in Singapore to develop Smart Manufacturing technologies for aerospace industry

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR[1]), Rolls-Royce[2], and Singapore Aero Engine Services Private Limited (SAESL[3]), will invest up to S$60 million to set up a Joint Lab for the development of Smart Manufacturing technologies.

The joint lab is a five-year collaboration programme between A*STAR, Rolls-Royce and SAESL. It will develop next-generation aerospace manufacturing, as well as Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) capabilities enabled by advanced processes, automation and digital technologies. Technologies developed could include the manufacturing (3D industrial printing) of complex aero-engine components, and advanced robotic and automatic solutions. The developed technologies will eventually be used on-site at Rolls-Royce and SAESL’s facilities for improved productivity, costs savings and business competitiveness.

A*STAR’s research institutes, Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), and the National Metrology Centre (NMC), are supporting this joint lab with relevant capabilities. This programme will leverage these capabilities, as well as ARTC’s Model Factory, to test-bed new technology applications for the aerospace industry. 

The programme comprises five main themes:

  1. Smart Assembly Systems – Application of intelligent automation across processes such as module assembly, alignment, functional testing and inspection;
  2. Integrated Remanufacturing Technologies – Advanced repair and remanufacturing methods including automation, laser metal deposition, adaptive technology, and smart inspection technology;
  3. Advanced Fan Blade Manufacturing – Automation of the fan blade value chain to enable higher productivity and improved right-first-time performance;
  4. Future Manufacturing Processes – Development of advanced processes such as Additive Layer Manufacturing, robotics and surface conditioning; and
  5. Knowledge-based Manufacturing – Use of digital (Industry 4.0) methods to improve quality, cost and delivery performance at process, factory and enterprise levels.

The lab could also generate significant spin-off benefits to other relevant local industry sectors, such as precision engineering.

One of the joint lab’s goals is for the local manufacturing industry, especially SMEs, to adopt the latest technologies, and be part of the high-value global manufacturing supply chain to generate economic outcomes in Singapore. These new business opportunities could then form a robust high-value aerospace-related business ecosystem for local enterprises.

A*STAR Chairman Lim Chuan Poh said: “The A*STAR-Rolls-Royce-SAESL Smart Manufacturing Joint Lab demonstrates A*STAR's commitment to working with the enterprises to sustain the competitiveness of the local manufacturing sector, a key pillar of Singapore's economy. Our Future of Manufacturing strategy involves bringing together ideas, resources, people and along the innovation value-chain from MNCs to SMEs on a synergistic platform to co-create and co-develop to benefit Singapore’s future economy.”

Manufacturing is a key pillar of Singapore’s economy, contributing 20 per cent of the country’s GDP (S$ 410.3 billion), and employing 14 per cent of the total workforce in 2016. As an important aviation hub in Asia, Singapore continues to attract one of the largest and most diverse concentrations of aerospace companies. The total output from the local aerospace industry is worth over S$8 billion, 85 per cent of which comes from MRO activities and the rest from manufacturing. Today, Singapore accounts for 10 per cent of global MRO output.

The Smart Manufacturing Joint Lab has been described as a significant milestone in Singapore’s push for the future of manufacturing. A*STAR’s Future of Manufacturing Strategy aims to sustain Singapore’s competitiveness in manufacturing and technology innovation, so that it is a location of choice for test-bedding cutting-edge technologies.

It is a three-pronged strategy combining: 1) Tech Access, which provides local enterprises, especially SMEs, with access to A*STAR’s advanced manufacturing equipment and facilities; 2) Tech Depot, which offers SMEs a suite of easy-to-use technologies that can help them to improve productivity and will showcase ready-to-go (RTG) packaged solutions such as inventory-tracking, and business process automation systems; and 3) Model Factories, which will be established at two locations, at ARTC and at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), to simulate production environments where companies can experiment and learn new manufacturing technologies, allowing SMEs to test new technologies with the help of public sector researchers.

[1]A*STAR is Singapore's lead public sector agency that spearheads economic-oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology.

[2] Rolls-Royce is the largest civil aero-engine manufacturer in the world and has a strong presence in Singapore, including two manufacturing facilities – a fan blade manufacturing facility (FBSG), and the Seletar Assembly and Test Unit (SATU) for engines. Since the opening of its Seletar facilities in 2011, Rolls-Royce has invested more than S$1.5 billion in its Singapore operations.

[3] SAESL is a joint venture between SIA Engineering Company Ltd (SIAEC, which is part of the Singapore Airlines Group) and Rolls-Royce plc. It is a leading maintenance, repair and operations powerhouse in Asia, with capabilities to perform engine overhauls for the entire family of Rolls-Royce Trent aero engines.

Featured image: Selman Tabet/  CC BY-SA 3.0

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