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Technology and skills in the aerospace and automotive industries

To enable the Advanced Manufacturing sector to realise its potential, it is vital to understand how technological advances impact upon skills needs. This research aims to go beyond high-level skills data that is currently available and focuses on skills requirements of three technological areas within the aerospace and automotive sectors: Additive Manufacturing, Composites and Plastic Electronics. Addressing these skills challenges will help the sector better respond to performance challenges and opportunities. Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a term used to describe the manufacture of products using digitally controlled machine tools and is often termed 3D printing. The approach differs from traditional manufacturing in that all Additive Manufacturing processes use a layer-by-layer approach to build up components rather than through machining from solid, moulding or casting (Materials Knowledge Transfer Network, 2012). Composites have been defined as consisting of a bulk material (the ‘matrix’) and a reinforcement of some kind such as fibres, particles or flakes, usually added to increase strength and stiffness. This report focuses on what are termed advanced composites (Structural Fibre-reinforced Polymer Matrix Composites) used in automotive and aerospace applications and characterised as light weight higher performance materials. Plastic Electronics has been defined as devices on flexible surfaces that make it possible to produce flexible, bendable or stretchable electronic products, which may use printing techniques, but can also be deposited onto flexible surfaces in other ways. Plastic Electronics can also refer to the use of printing techniques in relation to devices on rigid surfaces.