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Author: Mikael Ingvarsson

Study visits in California

Study visits in California

Besides working, me and Linn have had the opportunities to go on study visits to GKN SItes and suppliers around California. Here follows a short

We’ve been to GKN in El Cajon, together with high school students and teachers from GKN in Trollhättan. The site is also part of the Engine Systems division and manufacture products similar to those made in Sweden. This includes cold and hot structures, static and rotating parts, from turbine blades to giant fan cases. One of their processes, called chemical milling, is rather unique and is used to manufacture ribs, reinforcements and flanges in sheets and complex designs. The process’s high removal rate through etching is the result of baths with strong and hot acid, which have required rigorous controls to maintain permission to use it.

[A picture from our visit to Camarillo will be added soon :O ]

I and Linn have also been to Carlton Forge Works outside Los Angeles. As suggested by the name their main business is forging, large and difficult forgings like turbine cases, fan cases (those later machined in El Cajon), spools and flanges for their biggest customer, GKN Aerospace. The forgings are huge and so are hammers, presses and rollers.

Så här kan en hammare se ut i industrin. Genom att lyfta och släppa det tunga verktyget formas arbetsstycket successivt till jetmotorer.
This is what a hammer may look like in the industry. The workpiece is  shaped from the successive impacts from dropping and the heavy tool.

TIMET refines and manufactures titanium alloy products, primarily to the aerospace industry. Located in Henderson, close to Las Vegas, is their plant for extracting titanium from rutile ore, which we got to visit last month. Through a series of stages the pure titanium is separated from titanium oxide, reacted to chlorine, distilled and combined with magnesium. The product is a large, porous cylinder (titanium sponge) and has thus far required a lot of energy. Luckily, the plants location in the middle of the desert is also close to the Colorado River and the electricity producing Hoover Dam.

Hooverdammen och vattenkraftverket som förser närområdet med elektricitet och möjliggör titanframställning
The Hoover Dam and the hydropower plant which provides electricity to the desert area and enables titanium production

Next week, we’ll be going to the small GKN factory in Camarillo, west of Los Angeles, where they form sheet metal exclusively using metal spinning. The sheet metal is clamped onto a mandrel and, while rotating, is pressed with a roller tool against a die. The formed components (lip skins) sit in front of the fan and protect the inlet from impacts, abrasion and heat from the anti-ice air supply.

Trycksvarvning formar metallplåt till rotationssymmetriska produkter, som flygplansdetaljer och mässingsvaser
Metal spinning forms sheet metal into axisymmetric products, such as engine somponents and brass vases

I need to go and prepare for the upcoming celebration of the Independence Day. Have a nice weekend!


Guest blogger – Mike McCann, CEO GKN Aerospace Engine Systems

Guest blogger – Mike McCann, CEO GKN Aerospace Engine Systems

Preparing for the Future of GKN Aerospace Engine Systems (AES)

As part of my role at GKN, I am frequently in a position to discuss with investors, analysts, customers and our GKN teammates what I find to be exciting about our company, both today and in the future. I often speak of the great products that we make, the complex technologies that we employ and the interesting markets that we service in Aviation, Space & Defense. As many who have spent time with me know, I am somewhat passionate about our business and the impact that we make around the world; whether it is supporting the launching of satellites, enabling commercial aircraft to transport the world’s population or providing solutions to the military services for the protection of our citizens. In the end of these discussions, I always find myself coming back to most important thing that makes us successful – our people.

As we at Engine Systems look to the future, we put a great deal of effort in creating a long term investment strategy that will enable us to sustain and grow our market leadership position by providing:

  • future technologies like advanced metallic & composite materials, fabrication and additive manufacturing techniques, high deposition rate composite material delivery, alternative composite structure forming techniques;
  • product solutions that are aligned with our customers market strategies and that leverage our unique capabilities;
  • modern facilities, globally distributed, to meet the needs of our customers and the challenging competitive environment in which we work;
  • partnership investments on key aircraft platforms and engine solutions.

What may not be so apparent is the work that we are doing to identify initiatives and investments focused on making our company a business that will be an exciting place to work for future generations.

Although GKN is entering our 257th year in business, most people around the world are not familiar with us and what we do. Over the last several years, GKN, in particular, our Aerospace Division, has focused on our branding to make our company more visible in the regions and markets where we operate. We have become more active in the press, social media, trade publications, Aerospace business organizations and at many educational institutions. It is important that the current and next generation of future employees know of our company and the exciting things that we do so that we can continue to attract the best people.

In addition to improving our ability to find new talent, we must also have a safe, positive work environment fostering personal and professional growth such that our employees want to continue to stay in our business for their careers. Key initiatives and investments in this area are focused on:

  • protecting the safety of our people and driving toward an even more proactive safety awareness culture;
  • introducing the Gallup 12 tool and process to improve employee engagement across all of our facilities;
  • more effectively leveraging ethnic and gender diversity throughout all levels of the organization and ensuring that we provide a work environment where all of our employees feel valued and included;
  • clearly communicating and ensuring understanding of our company values such that we all “do the right thing” in all of our business endeavors;
  • sustaining and expanding our apprenticeship, internship and young graduate programs;
  • engaging in new ways with our next generation employees such as the “Future Thinking” initiative.

More so than ever, I see a very bright future for Engine Systems and GKN Aerospace. Together we are making it happen, each and every day.

Picture from our meeting
Wing structures and Additive Manufacturing (aka Trip to England pt 2)

Wing structures and Additive Manufacturing (aka Trip to England pt 2)

The wing spar is important and long and red in this image
The wing spar is important and long and red in image

Here comes another part of the story of our trip to and through England. Our first visit was Western Approach, the GKN site in the outskirts of Bristol. There we got to see their production of wing spars in spacious buildings and new machines. Spars are load bearing structures of wings seen in the figure on the right. Anyway, the production was, at the time of visit, focused on Airbus’s new A350 program and the military transport aircraft A400M Atlas (turboprop).

Producing the spars begins with a technique called Advanced Fiber Placement (AFP), in which tows of epoxy impregnated carbon fibers are robotically placed onto a mandrel. Layer upon layer of strategically placed material, reinforces the structure where it’s needed and minimizes the weight of the finished product. To get rid of porosities and promote complete bonding between fibers and epoxy, a pressurized oven (an autoclave) is used for the hardening process. Defects are checked for before painting seals the surface and the deal.

Advanced Fiber Placement is producing wing spar (Source: GKN Aerospace)

The composite spar structures are machined to dimensions and drilled for the installation of connecting parts, such as landing gear brackets and wing flap mounts. The assembly here avoids static fixtures which traditionally are used for such large parts. Instead, movable jigs skid along the building floor from one process step to the next and saves requirements for machine duplicates etc.

Vingspryglar är också viktiga och röda i bild
Wing ribs are also important and red in image

Similarly to Western Approach, another subject of visit and site in Bristol (or Filton) also works with the production and assembly of wing structures. The Filton plant manufactures the wing ribs, the parts perpendicular to the spars which define the shape of the wing (see figure). The ribs are CNC milled from thick base material slabs down to shin sheets with incorporated stiffeners to increase rigidity and reduce weight.

The costly yet necessary waste of material and generous time spent in machines has awakened the attention for a manufacturing technique on the rise. 3D-printing or Additive Manufacturing, as it’s referred to less populisticly, offers the possibility to form the stiffeners right onto the sheet product, thus potentially could save a lot of material and machining compared to conventional fabrication. Investments in the technology have resulted in the Centre of Excellence of the so called powder bed process at the site in Filton. Here, fabricated models show how changes in the design enables optimized structures for existing components, but the full potential of the technique requires redesign of interdependent structures, bluntly the whole aircraft.

Detalj vars vikt reducerats med viss tillverkningsmetod (Källa: GKN Aerospace)
Component who saved some weight with help from particular manufacturing technique (Source: GKN Aerospace)

Our last visit of our trip was the Imperial College where the Department of Aeronautics conducts research on Additive Manufacturing. We met with Dr Francesco Montomoli, Dr Rob Hewson and some of their postgraduates, who presented ongoing studies in the field. They work on design and manufacturing of aerospace products through Additive Manufacturing, but also development of programs that are able to disregard design restrictions, set by earlier means of production. With new possibilities, the solution to future problems (design of aircrafts) may come from AM.

Ljus framtid påminner lite om Beethoven (eller Emil+Alfreds tvål+två hyss på samme dag)
Exciting future resembles Beethoven (and soap+qeue outside bathroom)
Trip to SAAB

Trip to SAAB

We have been to Linköping again, this time on a study visit at SAAB! The visit was interesting, not only due to my lack of knowledge about what SAAB is doing.

First we were greeted by Emelie and Johannes, two of SAABs friendly young graduates, and introduced through a company presentation. Turns out SAAB is not only manufacturing JAS 39 Gripen, the military fighter aircraft, but works with “security solutions in civil and military applications”. And, not just in aerospace but on land and at sea as well. They work with everything from submarines (since 2014 and the requisition of Kockums :O> ) to commercial airplanes, from traffic management to camouflage, from military utilities to prison safety. They do a lot, check out their website and try finding something they don’t.

Back to the study visit. Our time there focused on the Aeronautics division, which works with airborne systems, and JAS 39 Gripen (one such system). Therefore, we got an exciting tour of the production and the assembly line of Gripen, passing through single component joining all the way to the finished airplanes. The tour was followed by a presentation of the history and developments of the aircraft, before we were ready to buckle up and take it for a ride. That is, in a virtual environment, a simulation developed by SAAB and enhanced by Rapid Mapping, their technique of digitally reproduce the landscape with high precision from data collected in field (pretty neat!).

Lit sign in dark Linköping (at least an attempt, I guess)

Because the site is a military compound protected by regulations, we weren’t able to take any pictures from there. Actually, I’m not even allowed to tell you about the facili


Lit sign in dark Linköping (at least an attempt)

Greetings before the holiday

Greetings before the holiday

Just as I was to finish up my work before the holiday, the fever forced me to retire a few days early. It’s the day before Christmas Eve and time to head home for the “celebration”. Watching a few movies from our childhood suits my malaise well. I just wanted to post a short one before I and the others go on a leave, to wish you a nice holiday. The blog will also take some time off and we’ll be back in the second week of forthcoming year.

Whatever you make of your holiday, whether or how you’ll celebrate: Drive and eat carefully, have a nice one and a happy new year! <@:D

Christmas card (swedish, sry): Delightful evening with the trainees and guests


Good to be back on solid ground! Jet reversal off. Air brakes off. I have moved to Trollhättan. My relocation went well, as it should when moving from some square meters to a few more. My new apartment takes up an entire floor and though I live in the town’s narrowest cylindrical masonry, I have plenty of space between the toilet and elevator. A stone’s throw away is the grocery store and with even less effort, I have the gym and my neighbor, the bowling alley. I’ll save almost three hours a day in travels to work and have suddenly gained some leisure time. Like me, also many of my new friends have settled in town :-P. When moving from a large city to a smaller, I used to think of all the things I would miss. However, so far I am pleased and when I feel like it, the train to Gothenburg still departs regularly. What happens in the trainee program and the job then?

There it is, the old water tower!

The trainees have already reached the end of the internships you have heard about in previous posts and this week, we’ll (with many exceptions) move our coffee cups into new departments to learn a little more about work, the work and our company. Therefore, I move from the materials lab to work with the spatially and scientifically adjacent process engineers. It is, after all, through manufacturing processes that different materials, the ones I’ve been analyzing before, can be applied and obtain the properties required by our products. I don’t know much about what my duties will be and as much as I’ve enjoyed working at the lab, it’ll be fun to try something different, yet similar 🙂 Have a great day!


School and blog visitors

School and blog visitors

What a day! We have student visitors from Linköping University and the blog has thirteen thousand five hundred subscribers. The students are here for a concluding part of a course (Turbine engines), and to present their projects. Together, we’ve also had a guided tour of the production, talked about the company and our work here in Trollhättan and fikat with engineers.

Happy about the visitors (ms paint disidentification B-])

What was I about to write? Oh yeah! The number of subscribers of the blog has reached the astrological sum of thirteen thousand five hundred! Subscribers are, as we understand it, followers of the blog who opted to receive email every time a new post is published. Although the number is hard to grasp, we’re very happy that so many people showed interest in the blog, during the few years it’s existed! Thank you for subscribing, reading and/or caring!


What’s up in the materials lab?

What’s up in the materials lab?

Last week, the upcoming five and maybe for the rest of my career, I’ll be located in the materials laboratory, my “home department”. During my studies in materials engineering, I often got questions about what my work would be like once finished. As I typically answered: I’ll be cutting up metals, grinding metals or looking at metals, I feel it’s time to explain the work in more details, for anyone interested. So, what are we doing?

Exciting work in the lab (rarely includes space travels)

My story may be a bit focused on metallography, since it’s what I’m doing right now, but I’ll try to include something brief about the rest of the activities at the department. The materials lab (informally the name of the department) mostly receives components and samples in need of examination from the producing units. The chemistry lab gets samples of process fluids, such as coolants from mechanical processing or etching baths, while the metallography lab deals with whole components (replica testing), segments of them (destructive testing) or process samples. Some of the metallographic work is shared with a smaller lab connected to the preparation of thermal coatings, where components get their hard, soft or corrosion resistant surface layers. Sometimes, samples from mechanical testing that have gone through experiments to obtain material data, arrives at the lab.

In the metallography lab materials from different production processes are evaluated to make sure everything went as expected. What are we looking for? Metallic materials consist of crystals (!), usually many but may in the aerospace industry be a single one, which greatly influence the properties of the product. Such crystals can be seen on galvanized lamp posts, as angular shapes of different shades. In most cases these are microscopically small (not the lamp posts) and you’ll need instruments to see them, for instance a microscope. The size and chemical composition of the crystals can be altered through alloying elements (ingredients in the metal), heat treatments and processing. If you can assess the microstructure, you can control if the production had been proper. Often sample preparation (as cutting, grinding and etching) is required to develop the right features for the examination.

An ordinary lamp post (patterned with crystals from galvanization :O)

Defects, like cracks and pores, may also be studied, since they determine how the material will perform or not. In the latter scenario the cause of component failure can be investigated (fractography). Surface layers, desired from thermal coating as well as unwanted, created in heat treatments, are also checked.

As you see, there’s a wide variation to the jobs at the lab and a lot of different analysis techniques available at the department. Whether it’s hacksawing away on a metal sheet or a microscopy assessment, I really enjoy my job and I’m looking forward to learning much more in the field! Thank you, dear and diligent reader! I’ll keep it shorter in posts to come!

Have a great day!



Seven more

Seven more

Hi and welcome to a new beginning of Aerobloggen!

As you may have noticed, the old cover photo has been replaced with a new one. A new group of young graduates have entered the program and will be providing new content to this blog. This time, the regular five entrants will be joined by two more from the international graduate program of GKN.

My name is Mikael, I’m the guy in the far left corner of the picture, and by my side I have Dennis and Daniel leaning over an RM 12 jet engine. Toni, Linn, Sofie and Gustav are seated in the front. If you’re curious of who is who and why, you will soon be able to read about us in the Our young graduates section (I might be in there already ;-O).

Familiar followers of the blog, or if you’ve just read the last post from Cissi, probably know how the graduate program usually take shape. We will be assigned different tasks throughout the site in Trollhättan along with study visits and activities and during the last three months leave for an internship abroad. We’re all very eager to see what is to come! We’ll keep you updated through periodic posts here in the blog. Also, stay tuned for information about the international graduate program, which we at the time of writing know little about.

After the last week’s introduction, we are currently out in the production, learning about the manufacturing of aerospace components. More of our experiences will be shared in up-coming posts.

See you soon!

Mikael and the others