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Prioritising Technological Investment in Challenging Times

Written by David Doral CTO and Head of Engineering at Quickstep

Technology is progress, nobody questions that. It has the capacity to solve problems, yet sometimes exacerbates them, only to come to the rescue again. Think of climate change, a large, human-made problem,  enabled by technology and driven by the progress of mankind. A collateral effect if you wish, but one that will again be fixed by the right decarbonisation technologies if we push hard and fast enough (or so we hope).

Or think of a global pandemic, as the one we are suffering right now. Its rapid spread enabled by globalisation, particularly by modern aviation and aircraft technology that have allowed mass and affordable air travel during the last few decades. And yet, we expect science and technology will come to the save us with a vaccine; one that should reach a population avid for a remedy in the shortest time ever (or so we hope, once again!).

It is in these turbulent times, despite all the hard choices to be made, when we need to maintain our commitment to progress as a business, with technology and innovation as enablers. Quickstep may not have been directly impacted by the sudden economic blow of COVID-19, as it crushes many companies, and even whole sectors in instances like the airline industry. Nevertheless, we are also starting to suffer the rippling effects of a shock that is not yet fading globally, but rather seems reenergised with multiple additional outbreaks and potential second waves.

We are making our own tough decisions as we balance our drive to push performance through hard work and agility, with our pledge to develop and implement innovative technologies. Quickstep started as an R&D company almost 20 years ago. Although we have now become a solid aerospace manufacturing business, innovation and R&D still lie at our core. Our own proprietary AeroQure technology, which can cure composite materials without the need of a slow and expensive autoclave, is finally on its path to realise its potential. With it, we have been producing components for the rail industry and the medical technology sector for a while now. However, we think we are closer than ever to delivering an end-to-end manufacturing solution for the aerospace sector. AeroQure is able to reduce cycle times and overall production costs, something that will be critical as aircraft OEMs decide to launch new programs. Even sooner, as airlines begin to relaunch, the reduction of manufacturing costs will be an important factor in enabling them to remain viable businesses and continue to offer a service that is required for society to prosper.



Our recent collaboration announcement with Spirit AeroSystems, one of the world’s largest commercial aerospace suppliers, is proof of both our progress and the interest of the industry. As a truly collective effort led by Quickstep with Spirit as an end user, the initiative features the cooperation of additional, globally recognised partners like US-based ElectroImpact (automated composite lay-up), and FIDAMC (composite manufacturing research) in Spain, with further funding and support from the Australian AMGC (Advanced Manufacturing Growth Center) to apply and evaluate the practical use of our AeroQure technology.

Another interesting application of AeroQure is in the manufacturing of components for eVTOL, or electric flying taxis, where our technology provides a perfect solution for high volume composite production. Here, we go to the other end of the spectrum in terms of collaboration, with a joint project with our neighbours, AMSL, a small, Sydney-based start-up developing a promising future example of Urban Air Mobility.

Whilst AeroQure may be one of the enablers of efficient manufacturing in the future, we need to ensure that we produce composites competitively now, and that we don’t cease to continuously improve. A lean culture is paramount, further enhanced with technology and innovation to enable change. Quickstep has embarked on a journey of modernisation, implementing a number of digital tools to streamline our engineering and production activities. Examples like Dassault Systemes’ Enovia Product Lifecycle Management suite, and JetCam Crosstrack composite manufacturing and tracking software are representative of our greater commitment to implementing technology applications to drive change. Through our successful introduction of automation in our legacy programs with robotic drilling and riveting of C-130J flaps, as well as the in-house development of a highly-automated production line for F-35 countermeasures, we continue to strive toward a more digitalized and paperless workplace.

Whether internally with projects like these, or externally with our engagement with multiple research and technology institutions (universities like Deakin, Swinburne, UTS, UNSW or the future Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility in NSW), our belief and underlying principle as an organisation is that it is in these troubled times that we can’t falter in our endeavour. Instead we need to stand by our pledge to innovation and technology investment, reassuring it and even increasing our commitment, as our FY21 budget demonstrates with a 40% increase in R&D over last year’s.

Only through this, can we demonstrate resilience in times of need and act as a true technology leader in the manufacturing sector, enabling us to thrive as a business and contribute to the prosperity of our society.