TRAM3 conference focuses on aerospace manufacturing

The Trends in Advanced Machining, Manufacturing and Materials (TRAM3) conference, Sept. 12-13 in Chicago in conjunction with IMTS, will emphasize technology leaders and manufacturing executives from the aerospace manufacturing community.

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Aerospace manufacturing is not like manufacturing for other industries. Facilities and companies in this sector routinely face production requirements and engineering challenges unlike those of shops serving any other market. For this reason, the aerospace sector deserves a manufacturing event all its own. In Chicago this September, it will have one.

The TRAM3 aerospace conference (Trends in Advanced Machining, Manufacturing and Materials) is being sponsored by Boeing and Rolls-Royce. Modern Machine Shop and its sister publication High-Performance Composites are among the organizers, along with AMT (Association For Manufacturing Technology).

The two-day conference, held during the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), will be Sept. 12-13 in Chicago’s McCormick Place. Researchers, technology leaders and manufacturing executives will speak about topics in aerospace manufacturing throughout the two days. Learn more at

Leading off the program will be keynote speeches from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC, Sheffield, U.K.), Boeing Research & Technology and Rolls-Royce. Here are some of the ideas they will share:

Adrian Allen of the AMRC:
A welcome address by Adrian Allen, commercial director of the AMRC, will aim to explain and highlight the engineering, environmental and economic drivers forcing change in the way aircraft are designed and made. In particular, he says he will focus on how environmental targets can only be met by increased operational performance—suggesting lighter structures and higher output engines.

The resulting introduction of new materials—whether a super high-strength stainless steel, a heat-resistant superalloy, or a carbon fiber or metal matrix composite—demands a reassessment of the means and methods for machining and manufacturing, Allen says. He hopes attendees will leave the conference with a strong understanding of what the future holds so they can consider how they and their companies can best harness and exploit coming developments in aerospace manufacturing.

The AMRC investigates and validates the efficacy of new tools, techniques and technologies associated with manufacturing aircraft structures and engines. He says that for a new material or process to be validated for use in making a critical aircraft component, it has to pass through at least nine stages of verification as to its suitability. In the case of a new material, the first levels relate to the material’s ability to satisfy some fundamental “musts” related to mechanical properties. As the material satisfies each subsequent level of interrogation, it moves up the manufacturing readiness curve until ultimately it is deemed ready for testing at the “highest level” before being deemed fit to fly.

“It is not easy to introduce a new manufacturing process or a new material into an aircraft build program,” says Allen. “I am looking forward to attendees’ reactions when they hear of some new materials for aerostructures that are unmachinable—given that they are harder and tougher than the majority of cutting tool materials currently used every day.”

Peter Hoffman of Boeing:
Collaborative research has dramatically increased both the scope and pace of manufacturing innovation, says Hoffman of Boeing. He will discuss this in his keynote presentation at TRAM3, detailing the new model for manufacturing research and how that research is no longer separate from the supply chain.

Hoffman is the director of global research and development strategy for Boeing Research & Technology. Part of his group’s role is researching the research—finding where work is being done that can advance Boeing’s products or processes. Another part of his group’s role is directing Boeing’s own research, and he says this increasingly involves research centers that are independent of the company, in which Boeing can partner with other companies to pursue common goals.

The AMRC in the UK is an example of such a facility. Boeing is not the site’s owner; the AMRC is overseen by the University of Sheffield. But Boeing is a leading partner that is able to combine research efforts and funds with other partner companies. Boeing uses centers like this in various countries to leverage its research dollars.

“Our thinking is, whatever the problem, some other company is also trying to solve it,” he says. “So why not share the cost and results?” The rise of this model has brought two striking benefits. One was anticipated: There is now more money for manufacturing research. Cooperation frees up funds, because it eliminates redundant efforts within separate companies.

The benefit that Hoffman says he and other corporate R&D leaders did not anticipate is the extent to which supplier companies have also become involved. In addition to OEMs, various research center partnerships now include contract manufacturers, machine tool builders, cutting tool makers and material suppliers.

“We now have the value chain all lined up,” he says. As a result, a new manufacturing technology is not presented to the supply chain cold. Instead, in many cases it is implemented by companies that have already helped fund and oversee its development. The suppliers involved this way thus obtain a head start at technology adoption unlike anything that has been available to suppliers before. Hoffman’s presentation will explore various examples and implications of this.

Dr. Hamid Mughal of Rolls-Royce:
Mughal, executive vice president of manufacturing engineering for aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce, says that competitive advantage in manufacturing is an objective generally aspired to, but rarely achieved.

“Many of the reasons relate to an inadequate understanding of the critical prerequisites, capabilities and approaches required to achieve best-in-class manufacturing performance,” he says. He will speak to this within his TRAM3 keynote presentation.
Various established manufacturing companies are coming under pressure from the growing strength of producers in emerging economies, he notes. This isn’t new. However, the recent global downturn brought a sharper focus to the question of what constitutes an effective strategy for long-term manufacturing success. Mughal will highlight challenges and opportunities manufacturers face, discussing the strategic significance of manufacturing excellence—a term he’ll define in part by looking to manufacturing both inside and outside of the aircraft industry to identify the factors that traditionally contribute to high levels of inefficiency and waste.

His talk will address the barriers to achieving excellence and the extent of the performance gap in manufacturing across different sectors, all to suggest a comprehensive approach for achieving a high level of manufacturing competitiveness.

That approach includes focused investment, attention to process capability and flow, and the application of advanced manufacturing technologies. The aim is to realize the potential for achieving “step-change performance improvement by the application of a highly integrated knowledge-based manufacturing framework,” Mughal says.

Other presentations include:

  • Cryogenic Cooling for Aerospace Machining
  • Drilling Advanced Aircraft Structures
  • The Drive for Multi-Task Machining
  • The Future of Additive Manufacturing
  • The Future of Composites
  • Game-Changing Surface Engineering
  • High Performance Machining of Titanium
  • High Pressure Coolant in Machining Heat Resistant Super Alloys
  • The Importance of Volumetric Machine Tool Accuracy
  • Metrology-Enabled Airfoil Manufacturing
  • Thermo-Plastic Forming

... and much more

For program details and online registration, visit

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