A delegation from RAF Lakenheath, home to the 48th Fighter Wing, visited the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) facilities in Rotherham and Sheffield to understand how digital technologies, composite materials and advanced machining could be integrated into the USAF’s maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) processes.
Last year, the AMRC worked with RAF Leeming, home to the RAF’s innovation hub RAF eXperimental (RAFX), to demonstrate how industry 4.0 digital technologies could transform how it operates and trains its workforce.
At the AMRC’s flagship Factory 2050 facility in Sheffield, the group was shown augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets, discrete event simulation software, smart benches, and other digital technologies. At the nearby Factory of the Future in Rotherham, there were demonstrations of the AMRC’s capabilities in advanced machining and the latest composite manufacturing processes.
Sgt Joseph Slaughter, fabrication flight superintendent in the 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, based at RAF Lakenheath, said: “The visit to the AMRC was organised to explore manufacturing capabilities of industry partners and find opportunities for collaboration outside of maintenance and the wing.
“The 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron (EMS) stood up the Advanced Manufacturing Working Group (AMWG) to identify opportunities to pool collective resources - such as 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing capabilities - to create and manufacture tools, parts, and items for non-aviation equipment and aviation components.
“The 48th EMS has identified this opportunity due to increased supply system shortfalls concurrent with the ageing support equipment and aircraft fleet.”
Jonathan Bray, the AMRC’s senior sector engagement manager for defence and space, said: “It was great to show the USAF around our facilities and explain how cutting-edge technologies can be applied to its operations.”