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 today by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.
Speaking ahead of the BIS Manufacturing Summit on Thursday, 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 begin this 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."