A machine that will give UK manufacturing ‘an edge’ is being worked on by the University of Huddersfield.
The project, which has been dubbed a ‘factory on a machine’, will boost productivity, save money and time, Professor Liam Blunt says.
“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,” he says.
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,” Professor Blunt says.
The Centre for Precision Technologies at the university has secured almost £8 million in funding for the five-year project - £4.7 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and £3 million from a consortium of leading UK firms and organisations, including Rolls Royce, Cummins Turbo Technologies, Taylor Hobson and David Brown.
The EPSRC has awarded the university a Centre for Innovative Manufacture, which 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 Centre for Precision Technologies 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.