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Nottingham professor receives Rolls-Royce Best Patent award

L-R Professor Axinte Dragos The University of Nottingham and Paul Stein Chief Scientific Officer Rolls-Royce

L-R Professor Axinte Dragos The University of Nottingham and Paul Stein Chief Scientific Officer Rolls-Royce

Professor Dragos Axinte from The University of Nottingham, together with colleagues at Rolls-Royce, has received the prestigious Rolls-Royce Best Patent award in recognition of a new technology that has been developed for the aerospace business.

The University of Nottingham is working with Rolls-Royce to develop an innovative method of undertaking in-situ component restoration and won the award for best patent for his contribution to a miniature control device system.

The University has been working with Rolls-Royce since 1998, and in that time, has developed a range of technologies for them in its Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre (UTC).

It was as a result of a demonstration of a unique special-purpose miniature machine tool known as a ‘Free-leg Hexapod’ or FreeHex, by Professor Axinte and his team, which resulted in this latest collaboration. The FreeHex was developed by the UTC for Rolls-Royce marine business to enable repairs to be undertaken in a very confined workspace.

The research resulted in the brand new concept of a miniature platform that can apply complex computerised milling processes to a wide range of in-situ maintenance jobs. At the demonstration of the Hexapod was Dr James Kell of Rolls-Royce, who asked Professor Axinte whether the University would be able to help him with developing new technologies to help make in-situ repairs to aero-engines.

Professor Axinte and his team worked closely with Dr James Kell and Dr Clive Grafton-Reed from Rolls-Royce, on a project which centred around the use of an innovative method to control a component restoration system capable to work in-situ in aero-engines. This gives Rolls-Royce a possibility to reduce the costs and time for on-wing aero-engine component restoration.

Speaking about the technology, Professor Axinte said: “We have been able to prove to Rolls-Royce that we can accurately control the component restoration system and to smartly move the beam so that in-situ repairs can be performed. We have also developed a unique delivery system which enables the end-effecter of the restoration technology to undertake repairs to parts of the aircraft that are normally inaccessible.”

The control for the component restoration system developed by the Rolls-Royce and Manufacturing UTC teams means that in-situ repairs work in a timely and cost-effective manner while limiting human intervention, hence increasing the accuracy of the work and automation of the process.

“We now have a fully-functioning demonstrator which we are able to use to show how the component restoration system could operate for such applications” said Professor Axinte. “It demonstrates the versatility and flexibility of the system in a variety of environments. The Manufacturing UTC has been actively working with Rolls-Royce on-wing repair team to develop a unique portfolio of capabilities that we hope will be developed further in a new strand of research activities with high potential for technical innovation.”

Commenting on the award, Ric Parker, Director of Research and Technology at Rolls-Royce plc, said: “I am very pleased to be presenting the Best Patent award to Professor Axinte for the work that he and his team have done on the component restoration control system.

“This patent is one of a number of exciting cutting edge technologies being developed in our University Technology Centres across the UK which are enabling us to stay at the forefront of aerospace research.”

Chris Rudd, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Business Engagement at The University of Nottingham, added: “Receiving this award is a testament to the outstanding innovative work which Professor Axinte and his team have been undertaking on behalf of Rolls-Royce.

“We are very proud of our long relationship with Rolls-Royce and we have been investing heavily in new facilities and equipment, to ensure that going forward, The University of Nottingham maintains its position as an international leader in aerospace research.”

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