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Babcock International to develop cutting-edge composite test facility with the University of Edinburgh

Babcock International Fastblade

A £2.4 million state of the art engineering composite test centre is being developed in Scotland as part of a new industrial partnership between the University of Edinburgh (UoE) and Babcock International (Babcock).

The FASTBLADE facility will be based at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard and forms part of the Group’s wider plans around innovation, technology and composite research in the area. FASTBLADE’S primary aim is to speed the development of materials and structures for a variety of industries, including those in marine, transport, nuclear and aerospace sectors.

It will be the first test facility of its kind in the world designed to carry out large-scale accelerated testing of tidal blades. Testing will use complex forces that simulate real environments, limiting the risks for product developers.

Babcock is the principal engineering designer of the FASTBLADE centre, which will test new materials within full-scale structures such as tidal blades, plane components and bridge sections. The initial testing will be on tidal blades, but the international appeal of the facility and its wider aims will mean testing can take place across many industries.

Engineering researchers will use an efficient hydraulic technology that enables structures to be tested significantly faster and using less energy compared with existing technologies. The system will recover energy between load cycles, reducing the cost of testing.

Neil Young, a Technology Director within Babcock has been involved from the project’s concept. He said: “When UoE approached Babcock they were looking for specialist facilities and engineering design expertise to help get the project from research application to reality. At Rosyth, we had both these key requirements, which were not available anywhere else in a single location. Our focus has been to optimise the design of the reaction frame to which the composite structure is mounted, and we’ve done this in partnership with Edinburgh.

“The design also included upgrading the foundation design in the building to accommodate the additional loads imposed by the fatigue testing.

“For us, this really is a great industrial partnership. Our engineers, working alongside the University’s renowned academics, have shown what the art of the possible is, in engineering and in working together. Whilst we are still at the early stages of development, we are creating something that will have real benefits for all the companies using the facility in years to come.”

Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, and leader of the research activity, said: “This collaboration is an opportunity to develop a world-class engineering facility to accelerate and support the development of new efficient technologies, and will be a great benefit to the tidal energy sector.”

Pioneering measurement systems will enable developers to learn from test datasets to understand damage accumulation and optimise blade structures through data-driven design.

FASTBLADE will help fulfil the University’s commitments as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which includes targets to help improve digital skills across the whole of the region.

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Funding for the facility has been received in part from the Engineering and Physical Sciences

Research Council and University of Edinburgh. As well as co-ordinating, Babcock is the principal

designer and host of the facility.

The partnership with UoE complements Babcock’s other industrial partnerships with the universities of

Cranfield and Strathclyde, which build on Babcock’s international presence in through-life

engineering, advanced manufacturing, composites and technology.

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