Taking a model approach

- Ottawa, Ontario

Sir Isaac Newton once said he could see farther because he was standing on the shoulders of giants. The same could be said of a recent collaboration by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and MDS Aero Support, a Canadian company specializing in gas turbine engine solutions, but they used miniatures rather than giants to look ahead. The collaborators used MDS-manufactured scaled models of current and future engine test cells to test various engine and test bed configurations in a customized facility at the NRC. By using models, the partners were able to see bigger and better test cell design for the future, which resulted in a contract for MDS from Rolls-Royce to build the world's largest gas turbine engine test facility.

Multidisciplinary research team

In 2016, to support MDS in addressing evolving industry requirements for engine testing, the NRC brought together a multidisciplinary research team that included experts in aeroacoustics, aerodynamics, and gas turbines. The researchers captured important data needed to help MDS solve design challenges that was also confirmed through computer modelling.

This approach was novel in the engine testing industry, in which prototyping is not always possible or practical. MDS's collaboration with the NRC through its Aeronautical Product Development (APD) program helped them take advantage of NRC expertise and facilities to optimize the design of their new engine test cells and move their products to the global market.

Innovative model approach reassures the end user

In 2017, the engine test cell models were reconfigured and tested again. With these tests, MDS was able to quickly evaluate proposed design changes for an existing full-scale facility to determine the best solution, taking the risk out of the product development process and ensuring the success of additional design changes. MDS then constructed a scaled prototype of what was to become their largest engine test cell to date.

To further improve data quality and increase test productivity, the NRC re-designed the experimental setup completely. Subsequent experiments with the new test cell validated the key design features of this major facility, verifying its performance before construction started. This validation at the scaled prototype stage provided Rolls-Royce as the end user with confidence in MDS, its new test cell capabilities, and the results these test cells will provide.

Through this collaboration, MDS was able to quickly test and confirm highly complex solutions for their design challenges in the NRC's state-of-the-art facilities. "We were able to progress our research, draw critical conclusions from the testing process, and optimize the design of our large engine test cell," said Joe Hajjar, Vice President of Business Development at MDS Aero Support. "The NRC's expertise and facilities were invaluable to MDS as we tested the limits of our designs and challenged industry standards. We look forward to more successful collaboration in the future."

"The National Research Council of Canada has the unique research expertise and infrastructure to support Canadian companies like MDS, providing innovative solutions and enabling them to better compete in the global aerospace sector," said Ibrahim Yimer, Director General of the NRC Aerospace Research Centre. "The NRC will continue to work with MDS and other Canadian aerospace partners in addressing next-generation technical challenges for the sector."

For more information about the National Research Council of Canada, its aerospace programs, capabilities and facilities, visit our Aerospace research and development expertise website.

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