Felipe Rubio
Leader of the National Center of Aeronautics Technologies (CENTA) Project and Deputy Director
Center for Engineering and Industrial Development (CIDESI)
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The Birth of Aerospace R&D in Mexico

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 15:10

Q: CENTA will be the country’s first research center focused exclusively on aerospace. What will be its main capabilities and what is the role of CIDESI in its development?

A: CONACYT created a research network with 27 centers and 100 secondary venues, many of which have come into being at the behest of researchers or local governments. CIDESI, a research center that is part of the CONACYT network and is focused on composites used in the aerospace industry, conceived and incubated CENTA as a spin-off project. Located in Queretaro, CENTA will operate as a consortium integrated with eight centers with complementary capabilities, enabling access to more than 70 collaborating laboratories all over the country and to qualified personnel and equipment for any demanding program. CENTA began operations in July 2017 but its official inauguration will be in late November 2017 after new equipment is incorporated. The center needs to have the capabilities to manufacture components without the need to send them abroad for treatments and then return them to be completed, as this reduces the state’s competitiveness. This is why the center is important and will allow us to contribute to future projects.

Q: What initiatives is CENTA developing to become part of the industry supply chain?

A: Aerospace is a high-tech sector that operates at a slow pace as the development of an engine, for example, can take over 10 years. The capacity of Mexican researchers has been one of the main motivators for foreign investment for the past 30 years. Mexicans’ ability to learn new processes and to contribute to them are part of the reason why OEMs ended up establishing here. We require certifications and accreditations, which will allow us to provide direct services and contribute to the aerospace supply chain. The center will handle simulation, thermal treatments, structural tests, tomography and nondestructive analysis with new equipment that will be incorporated to our laboratories by September 2017.

Since its conception, we thought CENTA could help other states, including Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja California, each specializing in different aircraft components. We have a collaboration agreement with several Mexican universities and we are starting to talk with foreign schools to support our activities.

Q: How is CENTA collaborating with the government and the private sector to support technology development?

A: We recently started a high-technology businessincubation program with the objective of linking research and business centers as fast as possible. CENTA is collaborating with a company that manufactures light sports aircraft. This company has access to CONACYT’s laboratories and researchers who can help with material development processes, testing, mold design, manufacturing and everything else needed for its production process. We also help this company with the aeronautical optimization of its airplanes through models and simulation.

Q: Why is it important to promote research in the aerospace sector?

A: Research and development are inherent to the improvement of any sector and for companies to gain a relevant position in the market. Knowledge generation and application must be part of the production chain; if we only focus on technology applications, shortly it will be impossible for Mexico to compete globally. Research without practical applications will only be published in scientific articles and conferences. CONACYT states that there must be collaboration between universities and research centers with businesses to generate real applications.

Research is also fundamental to the creation of a bedrock for Industry 4.0 integration and to optimize passengers’ safety during flights. It can also result in benefit such as reduced fuel use and the overall costs of an airplane, less emissions, maintenance optimization and the extension of components’ useful lifetime.