The first major engineering works on FASTBLADE, a state-of-the-art composite structures research facility will begin in July as part of an industry-academic partnership between Babcock International Group (Babcock) and the University of Edinburgh.
A team of Babcock engineers will begin construction of FASTBLADE’s 75 tonne structural reaction frame early next month, and will begin fit out of the new facility, based at Babcock’s Rosyth site near Edinburgh.
It will initially be used for lifetime fatigue testing of renewable energy tidal turbine blades, using pioneering technology which will be the first of its kind in the world.
The facility is funded to a value of £4.1 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the University of Edinburgh, with Babcock appointed as the principal engineering designer. With its novel technology, it will be an international centre of innovation in the research and testing of composite materials and structures for a variety of industries such as tidal energy, marine, transport, nuclear and aerospace.
Cutting-edge digital and hydraulic technology systems developed by the university are more energy-efficient than existing processes and will simulate real testing environments. Advanced analytics will assess structural performance in real-time.
Engineers, working within COVID-19 guidelines, will build and assemble the reaction frame which will span 16.2m long, 2.5m wide and 7.1m high and is expected to be complete by December.
The frame will withstand huge forces cycled millions of times over its lifespan as it tests composite structures and has been designed for future needs as structures such as tidal turbine blades become bigger and materials continue to develop.
The process will also create immediate benefits for product developers with savings on time and costs, reducing risk and improving safety. The development of the facility supports the digital skills agenda for both parties and follows the University’s signing of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal in 2018, which aims to increase research-based collaboration and innovation between universities and industry across the region.