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Canada: Future of Concordia’s aerospace program soars

Millions of dollars in funding for new aerospace research
The Canadian aerospace industry is the third largest in the world behind the U.S. and the European Community. In order to retain or improve its position in this competitive marketplace, Canada – and Concordia University – must keep abreast of the latest technologies.

For Concordia professor Suong Van Hoa, that means accelerating the scientific and technical know-how relating to a new composite materials manufacturing technique known as Automated Fibre Placement (AFP). Now, thanks to the support from the federal government and industry, Concordia will remain at the leading edge of aerospace teaching and research.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) – alongside industrial partners, Bombardier Aerospace, Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd., Composites Atlantic, Delastek and Emergia Aerospace – has just announced a multi-million-dollar grant in support of Hoa’s research.
Through NSERC’s Industrial Research Chairs program, Hoa will receive five years of funding, totalling in the millions. This invaluable financial support will allow Concordia to build on its existing strength in aerospace research while uniting the university with industry leaders who have signed on to co-fund the professor’s project.

“Canadian researchers have a strong track record in aerospace research and development that has made our country one of the top competitors globally,” says NSERC President Suzanne Fortier. “Dr. Hoa and his team have identified key areas where the Canadian aerospace industry will benefit from innovation. His industrial partners will benefit greatly from this leading-edge research, and Canada’s aerospace sector will break new ground in a highly competitive sector.”

A part of the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science for over 30 years, Hoa is an established leader in research on composites. Boiling his complex work into a succinct description, Hoa explains, “this is all about very small, very strong materials.”

The building blocks for his research are mostly made up of microscopic carbon or glass fibres, bound together with a resin and then shaped into whatever form the project at hand demands. The new funding will allow Hoa to continue expanding his research to adapt to the needs of today’s evolving aerospace industry.

With the recent advent of the Boeing 787 and Airbus 380, massive aircraft with fuselage that extensively incorporates extremely strong and highly durable composite materials like carbon fibre, there has been a major shift towards basing composite manufacturing technology on AFP rather than the traditional labour-intensive methods.

“Composites are the hot new trend in aviation. Companies use composites because they are lighter and less expensive than metal. Although composite materials may be more expensive than metal per kilo, they allow you to save a lot of time and labour because you can shape the composite into exactly the form that is needed, rather than machining it,” explains Hoa.

The overall objective of Hoa’s research program is to develop industrially relevant AFP materials and processing technologies relating to the automated manufacture of primary aerospace structures, with emphasis on small to medium parts of complex machinery. Properly engineered AFP processing promises to deliver composite components of higher quality, improved environmental friendliness and with lower manufacturing costs than commonly used composite technologies.

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