The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), British power systems technology company Rolls-Royce, and Singapore Aero Engine Services Private Limited (SAESL), will invest up to S$60 million to set up a Joint Lab to develop 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.

The A*STAR research institutes supporting this joint lab with relevant capabilities are the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), as well as the National Metrology Centre (NMC).

This is the first joint investment that A*STAR, Rolls-Royce, and SAESL have made on advanced manufacturing technologies.

The programme comprises five main themes:

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

This programme will leverage ARTC’s Model Factory, as well as A*STAR’s other relevant capabilities to test-bed new technology applications for the aerospace industry. The developed technologies will eventually be used on-site at Rolls-Royce and SAESL’s facilities for improved productivity, costs savings and business competitiveness.

The joint lab is a significant milestone in Singapore’s push for the future of manufacturing. It will develop cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, such as the additive manufacturing (3D industrial printing) of complex aero-engine components, as well as advanced robotic and automatic solutions. This could subsequently carry 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.”

Rolls-Royce Chairman Ian Davis said: “This agreement is further evidence of our special relationship with Singapore that began over 50 years ago. This continues to flourish as we make ground-breaking technological advances, together. Singapore, as demonstrated by its Future of Manufacturing initiative, is continually transforming, able and inventive. That is why Singapore is a compelling partner to work with.”

Manufacturing is a key pillar of Singapore’s economy, contributing to 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, 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 is the most comprehensive aerospace MRO hub in Asia, accounting for 10 per cent of global MRO output.

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.

SAESL 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.

Source: Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore

Illustration Photo: Rolls Royce Engine (credits: jambox998 / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))


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