CTA to acquire technology infrastructure: Supporting Canada’s aerospace industry by developing automation in machining

April 16, 2013

Saint-Hubert, QC April 16, 2013 As part of its research program on the automated machining of aerospace components, the Centre technologique en aérospatiale (CTA) at Collège Édouard-Montpetit received $765,092 in funding from the College-Industry Innovation Fund (CIIF), which will be used to acquire leading-edge research equipment. This is one of the projects funded in part by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Québec’s Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie (MESRST) will be matching this contribution. The CTA itself will be providing 20 percent of the amount needed for
the equipment.

The Automated Multi-axis Machining Program (AMMP)
“Our Automated Multi-axis Machining Program involves applied research projects on the use and integration of existing technology, and its goal is to transfer expertise to industry,” says Pascal Désilets, General Manager of the CTA. “In Quebec, there are some 215 businesses operating in aerospace, employing approximately 42,000 workers. The program has a $2.5 million research budget from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, but it has to acquire leading-edge equipment to be completed.”

The AMMP has two components: robotic machining and self-testing of machine tools. The robotic machining portion maximizes the use of robotic arms equipped with machining heads. “Industrial robots for machining are less expensive than machine tools, they offer more flexibility and allow work to be done on large parts,” Désilets says. “However, the precision of robots is a major challenge for businesses that want to use them, and this is the problem that the research project aims to solve.”

The second component of the AMMP, the self-testing of machine tools, is intended to maximize the use of the machine by eliminating human intervention. Current processes require regular intervention by operators, for example measuring a part being machined. “Fully automated machining is used in high-volume production sectors, such as in the auto industry, because the volume enables a return on the time invested in refining the automated process for each part,” Désilets explains. “However, in a field like aerospace where a single machine produces many different parts in small quantities, we have to put in place markers to optimize the work of the machine tools. The research project will develop techniques to automate machining for small batches of parts.

Leading-edge equipment
Thanks to grants from the CFI and the MESRST, the CTA will acquire several pieces of state-of-the-art equipment, including some that are quite rare in the industry, which will allow it to complete the various research projects planned as part of AMMP.

The CTA will acquire two robotic and laser systems to carry out precision measurements. “One of the robotic systems will be used to complement a rail-mounted robot we already have to develop large-dimension collaborative machining,” notes Mario Aubé, Technical Director of the CTA and a robotics specialist. “The two robots will work together to machine parts, which will reduce production time, trim costs and make working on large parts possible. To increase precision, a laser trajectory tracking system will check the robot’s work.”

The second robotic system will be used as part of the machine tools’ self-testing component, to improve efficiency and autonomy by minimizing human intervention. Here again, a laser system will be tested, as will a computer vision system to ensure the precision of the machines’ work.

Spinoffs for the industry
This cutting-edge equipment will allow the CTA to conduct research as part of the AMMP and develop expertise that it will transfer to businesses to increase their productivity in manufacturing aerospace components. “The AMMP was created in partnership with six companies: AV&R, Bombardier Aerospace, Meloche Group, L-3 Mas, Mesotec and Pratt & Whitney Canada,” Désilets says. “The project will benefit partner businesses along with small and medium-sized businesses, research centres and organizations that use automated machining, since knowledge will be easy to transfer.”

An essential contribution
“Canadian colleges play an important role in our national innovation ecosystem,” says Gilles G. Patry, President and CEO of the CFI. “The CIIF allows colleges to acquire advanced research infrastructure to conduct high-level applied research.”

Thanks to its large aerospace and aviation companies, Canada is an international leader in producing regional aircraft, avionics, business aircraft, commercial helicopters, aircraft engines, flight simulators, and landing gear and space systems.

The Centre technologique en aérospatiale

The CTA is a technology transfer college affiliated with Collège Édouard-Montpetit and located at its École nationale d’aérotechnique campus in Saint-Hubert. Specializing in aerospace technology applications, it supports the efforts of businesses in the sector to increase their knowledge, productivity and competitiveness, as well as the quality of their products and services. With expertise in machining, composite materials, inspection and avionics, the Centre complements the different players in research and technology transfer in the aerospace sector. CTA’s industrial activities are constantly evolving, and in 2011 it inaugurated its new 3,000-square-metre infrastructure.

About the College-Industry Innovation Fund
The College-Industry Innovation Fund (CIIF) targets projects that will enhance the capacity of colleges to support business innovation in Canada by providing them with state-of-the art, industry-relevant, research infrastructure.

About the Canada Foundation for Innovation
The Canada Foundation for Innovation gives researchers the tools they need to think big and innovate. By investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions, the CFI is helping to attract and retain the world’s top talent, to train the next generation of researchers, to support private-sector innovation and to create high-quality jobs that strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians. For more information, visit www.innovation.ca.

Sources:

Nathalie Coutu
Communication
École nationale d’aérotechnique
and Centre technologique en aérospatiale
Office: (450) 678-3561 ext. 4503
Cell phone: (514) 929-3805
Email: nathalie.coutu [at] college-em.qc.ca

Yves Melanson
Coordinator, Media Relations
Canada Foundation for Innovation
Office: 613-996-3160
Cell phone: 613 447-1723
Email: yves.melanson [at] innovation.ca