Tsetso stoyanov is a lead project engineer who is highly experienced with innovative composites and metallic technology development for the aerospace industry. In his current role Tsetso is leading the Industrialisation and production readiness of the GKN aerospace Wing of Tomorrow programme, an exciting multi-million pound research and development project led by airbus which has seen collaborations from many of the uK leaders in aerospace. We caught up with Tsetso to find out more about the research and development that goes into these monumental projects and the future of composite materials in the aerospace industry.

What made you decide to pursue a career in aerospace?
I graduated as Industrial Design engineer before I started work at Vestas Blades uK and solent Composites systems, where I gained experience in designing and manufacturing composite structures. after I joined GKN aerospace in 2010 as Composite Design engineer, my roles have varied a great deal because the aerospace technology sector is fast moving and exciting space to be in right now.

Still the safety factor creates added complications for aerospace innovations. Thinking out of the box is often restricted by the industry rules and regulation. To qualify new aerospace materials and implement new manufacturing processes, especially for primary structures, can be a long and expensive process. The designers and research engineers of composite technologies need to think ahead and have the vision of the future market trends and concentrate on developing the technologies, which the OeMs would be interesting in. This third dimension of challenges keeps things interesting.

What kind of product development are you involved with?
During the last few years I broadened my experience in composites technology development and now I am a lead engineer responsible for the industrialisation of the next generation composite wing spar manufacturing technology. This is a product, which we are developing for a major OeM customer. In my role I am ensuring that the deliverables of performance goals, manufacturing and development costs are in line with the company future product strategy map.

What’s been the single key innovation in material technology that has made a difference?
There are recent exciting developments in metallic alloys which still play a key role in aircraft design. At the same time new composite technologies are becoming broadly available, more affordable to manufacture and deliver improved performance. Getting new materials approved for use as a primary structure, which will allow reducing the manufacturing cost, will keep us on the forefront line and ahead of our competitors.

Are your goals to reduce weight or improve performance?
The objective often comes from the airline operators and through the OeMs is passed on to the Tier 1 suppliers like us. Weight is always a key factor as this has an impact on fuel consumption. The performance of certain parts will obviously influence aerodynamics and potentially lead to fuel savings also. all of these factors together are driving the goal to reduce product cost and significantly improve the manufacturing rates, especially with the single Isle aircraft production, where we see the strong continuously growing demand.

What challenges do you face?
As I mentioned, achieving the many regulation requirements is always a challenge in this field. We’re quite restricted as to what we can do due to all the safety concerns. This issue is now emerging and there are UK institutions and universities, which have planned for working in collaboration to find a better and quicker way for new technologies incretion and certification.
The higher rate demand throws a challenge to the whole supply chain. We need to look at and learn from the automotive sector how we can integrate Industry required automation and industrialisation, and at the same time maintain the high quality standards.

Another unique challenge with aerospace engineering is considering the rapid thermal expansion that materials will experience. Within minutes an aircraft can go from -50°C to 70°C in the most extreme scenarios and this is limiting the material combinations we can use in the manufacture of large structures, especially carbon and aluminum.

Staffing is a challenge. Skilled engineers are short in supply so we have to work closely with the universities. It is always exciting to see the next generation of student engineers is becoming involved with the industry at early stage. The universities are doing a good job of attracting students from the EU, but I’m not confident that this will continue post Brexit.

How does the UK stack up on the global stage of aerospace engineering?
Still not as strong as some European nations like Germany and France, which in my mind are the eu leaders, but we are making positive steps to strengthen our position. It’s important that we stay ahead of the already advancing in many respects Russia and Asia countries. The Russians single Isle MC-21 fully composite wing aircraft will soon obtain Type Certificate and start mass production. The Chinese market is also emerging with the progressive Comac development.

I believe that greater industry collaboration with institutions including government once, such as Catapult and AMRC is the key to accelerate our technology development readiness pushing UK towards becoming a world leader. Government’s financial support and collaboration with the UK aerospace industry could open more opportunities to advance the existing research programmes and create a lot more opportunities for the future, off course without forgetting our European partners.