Q&A: Jenny Manning, Head of AM, on Leading the 3D Printing Business at BAE Systems


Jenny Manning [JM] joined BAE systems 15 years ago as an aerospace engineering apprentice, where for three and a half years she rotated through various engineering and manufacturing internships. In 2011, she graduated as a manufacturing engineer and later worked on the Eurofighter Typhoon before moving into a communications role while studying for a manufacturing systems engineering degree.

After graduating with a first class BEng Hons, Manning returned to manufacturing, taking up a position as a Senior Manufacturing Engineer where she led technology insertion for Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes. In the years that followed, she worked on the Hawk and Tempest aircraft programs, before being named Head of Additive Manufacturing in January 2022. As she settles into this role, TCT caught up with Manning to learn more about how BAE applies AM technology.

TCT: Can you explain your responsibilities in your new role as Additive Manufacturing Manager?

JM: In my new role as Additive Manufacturing Manager, I am responsible for developing and delivering effective additive manufacturing solutions to our customer base. From an agile R&D capability to setting up a robust production environment, so that additive manufacturing becomes a key solution for future platforms. I am responsible for defining our future vision for additive manufacturing and how we continue to work closely with universities, suppliers, partners and industry to further develop the technology to bring value and benefits.

TCT: At what stage in your career did you discover 3D printing and, at that stage, how was BAE using this technology?

JM: I was aware of 3D printing from the early days of my apprenticeship career, as I had seen some of the tools and shop aids in the shop first hand. However, I was not officially introduced there until 2015. At that time, the company had been using additive manufacturing for almost 15 years. [at its Warton site]but mainly polymer processes such as SLA and FDM, manufacturing of prototypes and visualization models and some unique tooling applications. [Editor’s note: BAE Systems acquired one of the first SLA 3D printing systems in the UK, installing an SLA 250 machine at its Lostock facility in Q4 1989.]

TCT: Can you tell me how BAE Systems’ 3D printing application compares today? What application examples show the benefits of AM in aerospace/defense?

JM: Today, we use different materials in stereolithography (SLA), fused deposition modeling (FDM), selective laser sintering (SLS) and selective laser melting (SLM). Manufacture of everything from prototypes, mock-ups, visualization models, tools and product components on various platforms.

We have seen significant cost and time savings in some of our aircraft ground tooling and equipment applications. In addition to some components we have on Hawk and Typhoon – using AM the parts have been redesigned and although still classed as replacement parts the AM process has saved 40% cost and 60% delays compared to the conventional process. manufacturing methods.

Additive manufacturing, however, really adds value when you’re designing for the process in the first place. On Typhoon, the ECS cooling ducts, due to a radar requirement, required improved airflow.

Using AM, we were able to redesign a component, which was traditionally made up of 14 elements, and fabricate a single part with integrated cooling channels, resulting in a significant improvement in performance. In addition to that, we can nest four of them in the build chamber, which increases the efficiency of the build.

TCT: And what do you see as the big opportunities for additives in this industry and within BAE Systems?

JM: As part of our vision for future manufacturing, you can see our approach first hand through our ‘factory of the future’ in Lancashire, UK, where we have projects that demonstrate cutting-edge manufacturing. additive. This opens the door to new possibilities, including the manufacturing of large-scale additive parts for military aircraft. These developments are made possible through collaboration, in this case working with a wide range of suppliers and universities, including Siemens, Renishaw and the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Research at the University of Sheffield.

TCT: You previously held the position of IPT leader for the Tempest aircraft program and in July 2020 it was announced that BAE aimed to use AM to produce 30% of Tempest components – an increase from 1% on the Typhoon plane. How is this project progressing?

JM: Testing ever larger and more complex shapes to see which parts of the aircraft can be made using additive manufacturing is a huge stepping stone in this journey. We are about to complete a demonstration model of the aircraft’s forward fuselage using new robotic technology and increased levels of automation and additive manufacturing. We challenge our engineers to ensure that this latest application of technology can be exploited in today’s Typhoon aircraft, as we recognize the benefits it can bring in reducing production time and consumption of materials and energy. In recent trials, we reduced the production time of a large engine mounting frame for a Typhoon aircraft from 100 weeks to just 60 days. Today’s Typhoon is completely different under the skin of the jet that entered operational service in 2003 and is designed to develop and deploy 21st century technologies, future-proof the Typhoon for decades to come and prove the technologies, which will become central to future combat. aerial system.

TCT: How do you assess the suitability of 3D printing to BAE Systems’ requirements?

JM: Additive manufacturing lends itself to many applications. However, to ensure that you get the most out of the technology, you need to ensure that you design for the process from the start. Understanding the design principles to apply will result in a better product, while ensuring that you take advantage of the technology. It is also very important to know that additive manufacturing is just one more tool in the toolbox and is a complementary process to all our other conventional manufacturing methods; additive manufacturing doesn’t replace any of them, it just gives us a broader capability.

TCT: What do you see as the main challenges that BAE Systems and others face in developing their AM application?

JM: We recognize the critical role that our programs now and in the future play in creating high-skilled, high-value jobs, but we are fully aware of the skills shortages in the manufacturing and engineering. As a company, we are absolutely committed to working closely with third parties and local educational partnerships to create the next generation of talent and skills. We are developing this talent through our apprentice and graduate programs, where we are recruiting nearly 1,700 apprentices and graduates across the UK this year. Together with CREATE Education, we are also developing new digital skills in Lancashire to address skills shortages and support accelerated recovery from the pandemic. Investing in these skills will create a pipeline of highly skilled experts who are crucial to our future as a leading manufacturing nation, helping to maintain the North West of England’s position as the birthplace of aerospace manufacturing in the UK. -United.

TCT: Finally, how do you assess the impact of 3D printing technology within BAE Systems?

JM: Over the past five to seven years, we’ve seen a real increase in the leveraging of additive manufacturing across all of our Air programs and broader business units; including underwater, maritime and land applications. Our knowledge and understanding within the company is increasing day by day and we are really starting to see the benefits of using technology on our products. We are also seeing the development of a whole new set of technology skills, which is exciting for future skills and talent within the company. It’s exciting to be part of the next generation of manufacturing and to play a key role in the transition to Industry 4.0.

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