PolyU expands its facilities and network to consolidate HK’s position as an aircraft maintenance hub
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) recently expanded its facilities, the Aviation Service Research Centre (ASRC) to further strengthen its capabilities on related research projects, and extended its network with the industry, which will together help further consolidate Hong Kong’s major position as an aircraft maintenance hub.
Since first established in 2012, the ASRC, where PolyU experts collaborate with industry partners to resolve high-level technical and engineering issues, has achieved a series of notable successes. To mark the next step, a special three-in-one ceremony was held on September 26 to announce the latest significant developments.
The first was the official opening of a new research facility on the PolyU campus. More than five sets of new equipment, amounting to a cost greater than HK$35million, will be installed for use in the new facility. Covering 1.500 square metres and boasting state-of-the-art equipment for research and teaching, it will let the ASRC continue to bridge the gap between academic findings and practical industrial uses.
The centre will also look to strengthen its partnership network by working on groundbreaking projects proposed by the likes of Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO), Hong Kong Aero Engine Services Limited (HAESL), and other major players in Asia’s MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) sector.
In the past few years, the ASRC has been able to provide cutting-edge solutions with direct relevance for important day-to-day situations. And, in parallel, it has helped to bolster Hong Kong’s role in aviation services and reputation as a leader in the MRO sector across the region.
“Backed by advanced facilities and the top-notch expertise at our Industrial Centre, ASRC researchers have already shown how to turn innovations to practical use,” said Chan Tze-ching, PolyU’s Council Chairman, speaking at the ceremony. “They have delivered new automation technologies for aviation maintenance procedures. These have led to better service quality, streamlined workflows, reduced costs, raised safety standards and, hence, an overall improvement in competitiveness for the industry.”
Recent examples of successful projects include an ASRC-developed system which combines robotics and artificial intelligence. Using robots, it does illuminated scans of moving components of different shapes and sizes, such as compressors and turbine discs, to identify damaged areas, mark them, and repair the defects. This serves to reduce man-hours and limit the possibility of human error in the process.
Another project being planned focuses on removing the defects from composite materials, which are increasingly used instead of metal in aircraft manufacturing. Damage can occur beneath the aircraft’s “skin”, so ASRC experts are devising a way to use optical coherence tomography (OCT) to obtain sub-surface images of the ply direction to help conduct effective repairs.
At present, more than 10 other research and development projects of similar complexity are being undertaken at the request of various industry partners.
“I believe that with more partnerships and collaborations, we will be able to better serve the ever increasing needs and demands of the aviation sector,” Chan said. “With research initiatives and dedicated engineering facilities to support the delivery of new technologies, we can surely expect a win-win-win scenario in which PolyU, our partners, and the Hong Kong aviation industry as a whole will all benefit,” Mr Chan said.
The second feature of the ceremony was the signing of a five-year extension to the original agreement between PolyU and ASRC founding partner, The Boeing Company (Boeing), the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners.
“The ASRC will continue to lead the way in aerospace innovation,” said Mr Dennis Floyd, Vice President of Strategy for Boeing Global Services, The Boeing Company. “The young minds working in this facility will be at the forefront of aerospace transformation in the 21st century.”
This enduring partnership and collaborative effort is critical in positioning Hong Kong as the leading world-class service provider of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) for the region.
And the third key part of the event was the signing of a letter of intent with Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company (GAMECO), which marks a milestone of MRO industry in the Mainland joining ASRC.
In due course, there is every chance this could lead to joint projects involving anything from automation, process optimisation and technology integration to rapid prototyping, training, or the development of specialised software applications to improve MRO performance.
“We are committed to conducting impactful research that can be translated into real benefits for society,” said PolyU President Professor Timothy W. Tong. “We have been building a niche in aviation, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in Asia and, especially, mainland China. PolyU had the foresight to launch this ASRC facility, and we remain confident that effective synergy between academia and industry will help position Hong Kong as a world-class service provider within the region.”