Factories that use networks of light-based measurement systems for accurate measurement of products and real time control of machines; precise metal forming processes that can deliver small batches high value components and products; assembly lines that evolve and adapt quickly to new demands and use interchangeable components - these are visions for UK manufacturing in the future, according to six new research projects that have been awarded a total of £12.2 million Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant funding as part of a £45 million package of investments in manufacturing research announced by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.
Speaking ahead of the BIS Manufacturing Summit on Thursday 28th February, Mr Willetts said: “The UK has a proud history of manufacturing but to build on this success industry needs access to the very latest science and technology. This £45 million package of investment will see our world-class research base investigating innovative new manufacturing equipment and techniques. This will support our industrial strategy in a range of important sectors, driving growth and keeping the UK ahead in the global race.”
The projects, which began last month at universities across the country, will look into a variety of challenges connected to developing more flexible and adaptive manufacturing technology and systems.
* The Light Controlled Factory EP/K018124/1 – led by Professor Paul Maropoulos at the University of Bath – Grant value £2.5 million
* Precision guided flexible forming: closed-loop control of geometry and properties for high value metal component manufacture EP/K018108/1 – led by Dr Julian Allwood at the University of Cambridge – Grant value £1.7 million
* Evolvable assembly systems – towards open, adaptable and context-aware equipment and systems EP/K018205/1 – led by Professor Svetan Ratchev at the University of Nottingham – Grant value £2.2 million
* Knowledge driven configurable manufacturing (KDCM) EP/K018191/1 – led by Professor Robert Harrison at the University of Warwick – Grant value £1.9 million
* Miniature, flexible and reconfigurable manufacturing system for 3D micro-products EP/K018345/1 – led by Dr Xichun Luo at the University of Huddersfield – Grant value £2 million
* Metrology concepts for a new generation of plasma manufacturing with atom-scale precision EP/K018388/1 – led by Professor Timo Gans at the University of York – Grant value £1.9 million
EPSRC’s chief executive, professor David Delpy said: “Our high labour costs combined with global competition mean that the future of UK manufacturing lies in being as smart as possible. The country has the scientific and engineering know-how to not only develop new, valuable products, but the means to produce them more precisely, efficiently and to order. These research projects will help the country gear up for a future that can redefine manufacturing worldwide.”
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