The University of Sheffield AMRC with Boeing has secured funding for a £43 million state-of-the-art research factory to meet the future needs of aerospace and other high-value manufacturing industries.
The AMRC Factory 2050 will be the UK’s first fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing facility for collaborative research, capable of rapidly switching production between different high-value components and one-off parts.
The creation of the new facility is supported by a £10 million grant from the Research Partnership Investment Fund, managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
Leading manufacturers including Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Spirit AeroSystems are also committed to supporting the project.
Professor Keith Ridgway CBE, executive dean of the University of Sheffield AMRC, says: "This will be the most advanced factory in the world. It will give us a home for the research and demonstration work associated with building the next generation of aircraft and energy technologies.
The aim is to be able to manufacture any component as a one-off, and instantaneously switch between components. This will be a totally reconfigurable factory, one of the goals of the advanced manufacturing research strategy."
The AMRC Factory 2050 will combine technologies including advanced robotics, flexible automation, unmanned workspace, off-line programming in virtual environments linked to plug-and-play robotics, 3D printing from flexible automated systems, man-machine interfaces, and new programming and training tools.
The building will have an area of around 4,500 sq m, and will be built to BREEAM 'Excellent' environmental standards. It will be constructed largely from glass, to showcase the advanced manufacturing technologies being developed within. The location is yet to be decided.
Around 50 researchers and engineers will work in the new facility, which will be completed around the end of 2014.
Announcing the HEFCE funding, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "These excellent projects will not only deliver new knowledge and applications for industry, but will accelerate growth and foster innovation between the research base and business, keeping the UK ahead in the global race.
Our £300 million investment has secured over £855 million from business and charities – a total investment of £1.15 billion. This is an extraordinary result, far exceeding the required private to public funding ratio of two to one."