Given the fast pace of technological change and the tight competition in the global aircraft market, the UAC has prioritised the creation and development of innovative solutions in every area of its activities
In addition to using international developments and technologies, the Corporation has worked on improving its own R&D competences and has implemented a wide range of innovation programmes.
Innovation management system
The UAC’s innovative development priorities and the relevant implementation measures are defined by the Innovative Development Programme for 2016-20 with an outlook for 20251 —a document that forms an integral part of the Corporation’s Development Strategy. The Programme is aimed at ensuring the dynamic, sustainable and balanced development while maintaining and enhancing the competitive position in the domestic and foreign markets through efficient innovative activities that significantly contribute to the Corporation’s strategic goals.
The Innovative Development Programme lists
the following key mid-term innovation projects
of the UAC:
• Integrated Project “The Russian-Chinese advanced long-range wide-body aircraft (CR929) programme”;
• Integrated Project “Short-to-medium-haul МС-21 aircraft”;
• Projects for manufacturing aircraft as part of state procurement;
• Launching an assembly line for МС-21 with digital positioning and laser systems;
• Renovation and upgrade of the production facilities of PJSC Tupolev;
• Renovation and upgrade of the production facilities of JSC Aviastar-SP;
• Renovation and upgrade of the of the assembly and auxiliary production facilities of PJSC Sukhoi;
• Creation of a nacelles/pylons centre of specialisation.
In 2017, to increase the effectiveness of the Innovative Development Programme and enhance the innovation processes, the Corporation’s subsidiaries and affiliates developed their own innovative development programmes and plans.
To increase the effect of the innovative efforts, the UAC introduced a one-stop-shop system. The procedure of interaction with external partners on matters related to the use of innovative solutions by the Corporation is determined by the “Regulations on the Procedure and Rules of Introducing Innovative Solutions of Entities of External Innovation Environment by PJSC UAC” and the “Guidelines on the Operations with the Register of Innovative Solutions of PJSC UAC”.
The UAC has around ten competence centres and centres of specialisation that manufacture aircraft structures from composite materials, as well as doors, fuselage panels for various types of aircraft, assemble the empennage and integrate avionics.
For example, in the city of Ulyanovsk there are competence centres for the manufacturing of composite wings for MC-21s (JSC Aerocomposit), fuselage panels, doors and empennage. The Moscow-based LLC UAC-Integration Centre works on advanced aircraft: in particular, it develops the avionics for the MC-21.
In 2017 PJSC VASO (Voronezh), jointly with the United Engine Corporation, began the creation of a new centre of specialisation for the production of nacelles and pylons for transport and passenger aircraft.
There are also plans to open around ten new competence centres to focus on developing specific technologies catering to the needs of the Corporation. A programme for creating new production facilities, such as a casting and a metal working plant, is currently under discussion.
Key innovation projects
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES IN ENGINEERING AND MANUFACTURING
Digitisation of engineering
Digital engineering is a relatively new concept for Russia: the first ‘paperless’ products were Gen 4++ Su-35 fighter and the SSJ 100 civil airliner. In 2017 all of the UAC’s design bureaus completed the transition to the paperless office. In the last couple of years the Corporation’s key suppliers have also started to introduce digital engineering technologies.
The modern technologies make it possible to reduce the engineering time by almost 50% (from 7–8 years to 3–4 years) and increase manufacturability. The finished 3D models are used to manufacture the components with state-of-the-art CNC machine tools.
A single information system
In 2017 PJSC Tupolev summarised the first experiences of using the Integrated Information Environment (IIE)—a digital system that accumulates and stores the data on all the stages of an aircraft life cycle, from manufacturing to aftersales services. The IIE includes unified digital workplaces, an access to unified manuals and an automated approval workflow. Provisions have also been made to ensure digital preservation in case of emergency situations: one more server is currently being built in another city.
Using design software and virtual models is more convenient and reduces engineering and manufacturing time.
In 2017 the professionals of the Ulyanovskbased JSC Aviastar-SP in cooperation with the team of JSC Aviation Consulting–TECHNO (Moscow) performed the adjustment and rollout of fixtures for jigless automated section alignment to facilitate a transition to automated transport aircraft assembly technology. It was the first time this kind of technology had been developed by the Russian scientists.
The key difference between jigless assembly and the ‘conventional’ assembly is that the former uses laser optical measurement systems which ensure high process accuracy and predictable quality. In addition, such assembly fixtures help reduce the complexity of the alignment process and the dependence on the skills of the technical personnel.
3D learning technology
The professionals of the MIG Corporation and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology developed an appliance that improves the accuracy of assembly—a system that can project a full-size image of any aircraft structure directly on the shop wall. The images produced by several projection systems are joined into a single picture, while specialised laser sensors make it possible to control the image as if it was displayed on a screen.
In addition to making the assembly easier, the new technology does not require VR headsets or panels that are traditionally used for 3D visualisation and have already been applied in engineering.
Automated operation time tracking
The Chkalov Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant uses an automated system to monitor the operation time of the equipment (HYDRA) that helps increase machine tool productivity. The programme uses specialised hardware and software modules to track the status of the equipment and sends this data to the server for processing. The introduction of the system allows for a more detailed and continuous monitoring of machine tools operation; in addition, it improves the manufacturing process and reduces non-productive time.
Currently, the UAC is developing a Digital Factory concept: it is expected that each machine tool will have a digital copy, and machine tool operation time monitoring and performance forecasting will be performed simultaneously by all companies within the Corporation.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TECHNOLOGIES FOR MILITARY AIRCRAFT
The combat aircraft manufactured by the UAC use an automatically controlled airborne artificial intelligence system developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. The concept of an information and control system that was for the first time realised in the Su-35 became the core of the avionics of Su-57s, the modernised Tu-160 and Tu-22M3, and will be used in the avionics suite of advanced helicopters and unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
The intelligence system makes it possible to automate the systems of flight and weapons control. This technology does not require constant human supervision, since it automatically aligns different data and provides the pilot with accurate and detailed information on the current situation. This makes it possible to extend the range of combat missions, support flight preparation and reduce the cognitive load on the pilot.
In 2017 the UAC received the Russian Federation Government Award in science and technology for the development of the highly- integrated airborne intelligence system for the Su-35 Gen 4++ fighter.
In May 2017 the UAC, jointly with the Digital Technologies Centre, launched a 3D printing facility and a casting plant in Kazan (at the Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant and the Simonov Design Bureau).
The 3D printer is used to print casting moulds for blanks to be used in aircraft manufacturing and other sectors of machine building industry: the machine creates a mould of any geometrical complexity with layers of sand and furan resin; the density of each layer is only 0.28 mm and the printhead has a positioning accuracy of up to 0.1 mm. The plant has an X-ray computer-tomographic scanner that makes it possible to obtain three-dimensional images, perform X-ray analysis of defects, internal structure and non-destructive testing of castings.
The digital technologies help reduce the time and financial resources required to produce the moulds for the components by 400%―500%.
NEXT-GENERATION MATERIALS FOR AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURING
Carbon fiber for МС-21
The wings of the new MC-21 are made of carbon fibre, a material that is much lighter than aluminium and is corrosion resistant. This is the first time carbon fibre has been used in a Russian civil aircraft or in any medium-haul liner (carbon fibre has previously been used only in long-haul wide-body aircraft).
A carbon wing is longer and thinner, and, consequently, has lower drag. Using carbon in aircraft manufacturing helps reduce fuel burn and increase cabin comfort.
In 2018, at the pilot production facility in Voronezh, the UAC, jointly with the Institute of New Carbon Materials and Technologies (which was co-founded by the Faculty of Chemistry of the Lomonosov Moscow State University) launched the manufacturing of components from composite materials that were produced with domestic raw materials. Total investment in the development of the new technology exceeded RUB 300 million, with RUB 154 million provided by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science.
In 2018 the UAC will become part of the Composite Valley research, development and production cluster that is currently being built in the Uzlovaya Special Economic Zone in the Tula Region to manufacture next-generation polymer materials.
In 2017 further progress was made on the system for automated diagnostics of electronic components (SADEC-21). The system is designed for rapid testing of the avionics removed from an airliner and suspected to have failed; it can operate immediately at the airport and be used to test both Russian- and foreign- made units.
SADEC-21 will prevent undue removal of properly functioning equipment and materially reduce the operational expenses of airlines.
In 2017 the UAC started to create competence laser technology centres to cater to the needs of aircraft repair plants. Such centres were established at the Aircraft Repair Plant No. 123 in Staraya Russa and Aircraft Repair Plant No. 322 in Ussuriysk. The modern lasers help reduce the structural repair time and significantly cut repair costs. A laser technology centre is scheduled to be opened by the UAC in 2018
Laser technology in Ussuriysk
In 2017 Aircraft Repair Plant No. 322 launched a joint project with the Institute of Automation and Control Processes of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IACP FES RAS) on using industrial lasers for aircraft repair.
The plant’s mechanical engineers, in cooperation with the research team of IACP FES RAS, managed to identify ways of using laser technology to repair magnesium alloy aircraft components making it possible to reduce the repair time from several months to just a week.
In addition, the aircraft repair plant now uses a portable laser tool to remove the paint before repainting instead of the aggressive paint strippers thus mitigating the environmental and occupational health effects.
There are plans to create a high-tech aircraft repair plant featuring robotic laser systems in the Far East.
Production and technical centre in Staraya Russa
A new production and technical centre (PTC) will be developed at the Aircraft Repair Plant No. 123 to specialise in manufacturing and repair aircraft components and subassemblies using laser technology. In addition, the PTC will have multipurpose units and general-purpose equipment for machining, and use gauging machines and 3D printing for more complicated engineering challenges.
The new PTC buildings are scheduled to be commissioned in 2018.
Cooperation with the innovation community
COOPERATION WITH THE RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
In 2013 the UAC and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) signed an agreement on cooperation. Under the agreement, several core institutions of the RAS will be participating in current and future research programmes covering more than 20 different areas.
New research and development institutions are established as part of the partnership programme. In particular, the Moscow-based laboratory research centre of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Electrodynamics of the Russian Academy of Sciences includes, among others, a nanocomposites, thin films and coatings laboratory and a composites electrophysics laboratory. In addition, pilot facilities for the production of next-generation materials have been created at the research laboratories; these new facilities are used in the development and manufacturing of new Russian aircraft.
In 2017 the UAC signed an agreement on cooperation in science and technology with the Siberian Branch of the RAS. Under the agreement, the Institute will act as an expert and coordinator of the efforts on developing the components for next-generation aircraft. In particular, the agreement provides for close cooperation of the two institutions on the development of the Russian-Chinese long- haul wide-body aircraft.
COOPERATION WITH RUSNANO
The Corporation has actively cooperated with Rusnano Group, Russia’s major nanotechnology company. JSC Prepreg-SKM, a Rusnano portfolio company, supplies composite materials for Sukhoi, and the UAC’s aircraft repair plants use the results of the research done by Plackart portfolio company.
In July 2017 the UAC and Rusnano signed a strategic cooperation agreement: the parties will be coordinating their efforts on the development of a components basis, the production of materials for the aircraft industry and the manufacturing of nanotechnology products for long-term aircraft manufacturing programmes.
In addition, the UAC and Rusnano are planning to create joint working groups to assess the economic feasibility of proposed developments and their commercialisation. Rusnano companies will participate in tenders for development engineering, production of parts and components, in particular for manufacturing a next-generation universal aircraft storage battery.
The nanotechnologies will enable the Corporation to increase the competitiveness of its products by improving their technical performance, reducing costs and increasing labour efficiency.
UAC AND SKOLKOVO
In 2017 the UAC became the first strategic investor and partner of a venture capital fund established by Skolkovo and the Russian Venture Company. The target fund value is RUB 2.5 to 3 billion, with up to RUB 300 million to be contributed by the Corporation. The investment partnership will support Russian startups consistent with the roadmaps of the National Technology Initiative which prioritise such areas as new materials, unmanned technologies, smart power energy, digital design, additive technologies and robotics.