Category 2: Large Companies
In an industry as competitive as aircraft manufacturing—where the business context is challenging and precision is a must—Pratt & Whitney Canada deeply values its longstanding research partnership with The University of British Columbia’s Yusuf Altintas, winner of an NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation.
The professor of mechanical engineering has worked with the company over the past several decades to develop mathematical models that simulate parts machining, which remove much of the financial risk and minimizes the environmental impact of physical development trials and subsequent part production.
In the past, Pratt & Whitney Canada, like other companies, was challenged by several process limitations, including vibrations that could damage both the cutting tool and the part under development. For example, an impeller is a rotor that regulates pressure and flow of a fluid. It’s a critical performance part in the heart of an aircraft engine. Machining an impeller is a challenging process involving expensive materials and costly manufacturing equipment—with no margin for error. If the machining process fails, you risk scrapping the entire part.
In 1986, the company approached Dr. Altintas, a former employee, to help provide more certainty in the machining of parts. He proposed a modest research investment that could improve process robustness and realize 10-15 percent savings. However, by 1992, exceeding all expectations, Dr. Altintas’ research had achieved up to 85 percent cost savings on some parts.
Today, Dr. Altintas’s laboratory is among the best-equipped in North America, producing a steady stream of highly qualified graduates and innovative ideas for Pratt & Whitney Canada and other companies.