Bombardier Belfast engineers have won the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2019 MacRobert Award for their resin-infused advanced composite aircraft wing.
According to The Engineer, the wing – used on the Airbus A220 – is the first certified commercial aircraft wing made using resin transfer infusion (RTI).
The RTI process isn’t just path-breaking, it also helps reduce the environmental impact of aviation, notes Bombardier’s engineers.
The new process creates a complex structure by placing dry fabric into molds before impregnating it with liquid resin, which then sets into shape under heat and pressure.
While other processes involve pre-impregnated carbon fiber requiring intensive refrigeration before manufacture, the RTI process uses less energy, fewer parts and results in a lighter wing, reports The Engineer.
According to Bombardier, the new wing is approximately 10% lighter than conventional metal wings. This helps it reduce CO2 and NOx emissions, as well as fuel burned in flight.
Though Bombardier is planning to sell its Belfast facility, the MacRobert award provides some welcome recognition of the expertise at the site.
Commenting on this year’s winners, the chair of the judging panel Dr Dame Sue Ion said: “Bombardier’s composite wing reflects how excellence in aeronautical engineering benefits both society and the environment.”
“At a time of uncertainty for Belfast’s engineering community, we hope this award helps them achieve the worldwide recognition they deserve.”
The other shortlisted finalists were Darktrace for Antigena, an AI-powered ‘self-healing’ cybersecurity system; M Squared, whose SolsTiS Titanium-Sapphire laser produces the world’s purest light; and OrganOx, developer of the world’s first device for keeping a human donor liver functioning outside the body for up to 24 hours prior to transplant.
Previous winning innovations include the Pegasus engine used in the Harrier jump jet, the CT scanner, and the Raspberry Pi.
Image and content: Bombardier/The Engineer