As for much of the aerospace sector, the need to make air transport greener is driving much of the research-and-development effort at GKN. For instance, explained chief technology officer Phil Grainger, GKN is working on a next-generation composite wing that would not need spars. This would obviously reduce airframe weight but production costs would actually rise because of the need to change the way the wings are assembled.
GKN engineers are also working on low-energy processes to use microwave to cure composite materials. Under the European Commission-backed, Rolls-Royce-led engine research program Samulet, GKN is working on developing new-technology fan cases. It is also working on composite fan blades through a joint venture with Rolls-Royce.
In the effort to reduce aircraft noise, GKN has been investing in possible seamless double-layer composite inlet acoustic liner engine fan cases. Honeywell has already tested this liner and has seen a dB reduction in the noisiest part of the engine as a result of this application.
Other R&D work covers new self-sensing smart systems for an anti-ice protection system, as well as reduced power consumption for all-electric aircraft. The company is also developing a new laser composite preparation for aerostructure repair work and preparation of surfaces for carbon fiber bonding.