£8 million project to give UK firms the cutting edge
University researchers’ £8 million project to give UK firms the cutting edge
The competitive edge of UK manufacturing will be sharpened by a multi-million advanced metrology research project at the University of Huddersfield which aims to produce an amazing “factory on a machine”.
The University’s team of globally-respected experts in the science of measurement plus fields such as machine tool accuracy and diagnostic engineering have secured almost £8 million for the five-year project. At the end of it, companies will be able to fit their existing machine tools with devices that ensure almost total accuracy, with massive savings in costs and huge increases in efficiency. And the environment will benefit too, from big reductions in waste.
The Centre for Precision Technologies at the University of Huddersfield has secured the funding, consisting £4.7 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), backed up by £3 million from a consortium of leading UK firms and organisations, including big industrial players such as Rolls Royce, Cummins Turbo Technologies, Taylor Hobson and David Brown.
The £8 million funding total is the biggest single sum to come to the University of Huddersfield for a research project. The project director Professor Jane Jiang backed by the head of the existing Centre for Precision Technologies, Professor Liam Blunt and colleagues including Professor Alan Myers and Professor Paul Scott prepared a series of detailed submissions and presentations in order to secure the funding. The result, after an 11-month process, was that the EPSRC awarded the University a highly-coveted and prestigious Centre for Innovative Manufacture.
The goal is to produce what has been dubbed a ‘factory on a machine’, as Professor Blunt explains: “When you make something in a conventional factory, you normally have to take it off the machine during the process and measure it and make sure it’s the right size and quality. But with our new technology the quality checks of the part are done within the machine tool so you don’t have to remove it at all.
“All the manufacturing control, in fact all the elements that you have in a big factory will be squeezed down so that everything is done in the machine. You basically put a piece of metal in at the beginning and out of it comes the part, finished, measured and complete with quality documentation.”
The result will be a big time saving in time and costs because it will be possible to fit the “factory on a machine” device to an existing machine tool, meaning big boosts in productivity without massive extra investment. Industries expected to benefit will include aerospace and optics.
“This will definitely give British manufacturing an edge. It is all about how well we can make high added-value products,” added Professor Blunt, who is one of the world’s leading metrologists.
The award of a ‘Centre for Innovative Manufacture’ at Huddersfield will result in the creation of up to ten new posts, including manufacturing engineers and metrologists. Some of the country’s most promising PhD students in the field have also applied to take part.
The CPT already has state-of-the-art equipment but it will acquire new machinery for the project, including a machine tool that will act as a test bed for the new device.