Dowty upgrades propellers with Digiprop R&D program


UK-based propeller maker Dowty has significantly upgraded its manufacturing and design processes after completing a four year, £20 million (US$28 million) R&D program.

The Digital Propulsion DigiProp R&D program has been the largest ever undertaken by the company.

As part of Digiprop engineers used digital twins to optimize Dowty Propellers factory’s footprint and to identify process bottlenecks. This has reduced manufacturing time and energy consumption, improved first time yield performance, and accelerated time to market for customers.

The R&D project has also industrialized the technology of triaxial braiding into the company’s manufacturing processes, enabling the use of advanced thermoplastic composites in its propellers to reduce weight while improving performance and strength. Thermoplastic composites can also be recycled and formed into another product, reducing waste and reusing tooling.

The company said it is beginning to use the technologies from DigiProp in aircraft applications and next generation platforms.

CAD image of propeller

Dowty has been developing industry leading digital design optimisation models and tools supported by extensive test data (Image Dowty)

Propeller testing

Evolving testing methods to better represent the operating environment has been a focus area in the Digital Propulsion program (Image: Dowty)

The DigiProp program was part funded by the UK Government and involved members of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Aerospace Technology Institute.

Mark Scully, head of technology for advanced systems and propulsion at the UK R&D agency the Aerospace Technology Institute said, “This project has delivered innovations in propulsion performance and cost through design and productivity which has helped to transform R&D for propellers.

“With the assistance of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult partners, the manufacturing innovation has been deployed into the new state-of-the-art Dowty facility in Gloucester. This provides an excellent foundation for Dowty and the UK to secure future sustainable aerospace opportunities.”

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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