A new £25m centre of excellence in metrology will save British industry millions of pounds and hours in new ‘smart factories’, an audience of industry experts has been told in Huddersfield.
The Future Metrology Hub, one of eight EPSRC-funded future manufacturing hubs, headquartered at Huddersfield University, will organise the research and development of a range of new measurement methods that form part of accelerating Britain’s manufacturing into the “fourth industrial revolution”.
Millions of components are machined and fabricated every day and measured and validated at the end of the process. New techniques can integrate the measurement inside the manufacturing process, saving industry millions of hours of production time.
Official estimates from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), say that up to one fifth of the total value of UK manufacturing activity is in product verification. The Hub has identified technologies to systematically reduce the time and cost of this testing and validation.
The Metrology Hub is one of eight Future Manufacturing Hubs part funded with £10m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council last year. A further £15m is provided by industry, with 29 companies and institutions involved in the hub. Joining Huddersfield in the hub are researchers from the Universities of Bath, Sheffield and Loughborough.
World-leading lightweight casting company, Sarginsons Industries, is on track to grow year on-year sales by 30% to £7.5m by year-end following a strong 2017 to date.
Sarginsons Industries has seen major growth in developing high performance cast aluminium alloys for the automotive and rail industries. Among major developments at the Coventry based firm this year include working in partnership with the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST) to develop new lightweight aluminium alloys’ that are as strong as steel and totally recyclable.
The partnership with BCAST – an academic research centre on the campus of Brunei University London and global leader in metallurgical casting research – is under the Lightweight Energy Absorbing Aluminium Structures for Transport (LEAAST) project.
Sarginsons is also a key Industrial Partner at the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Liquid Metal Engineering (LIME) based at Brunel University in collaboration with the University of Oxford, University of Leeds, University of Manchester and Imperial College London.
The company has also Invested heavily in new equipment and energy efficiency measures and is set to invest £500,000 In further upgrades by 2018.
Managing director at Sarginsons, Anthony Evans explained: “We’ve seen a huge rise in the demand for aluminium components in the global automotive industry and that is a major factor in our on-going success.
“This year we’ve seen a major spike in new enquiries from Tier 1 suppliers across Europe, which is further evidence the automotive industry in the UK remains buoyant, despite the on-going Brexit uncertainty.”
Evans continued: “Manufacturers are now increasingly designing for the use of aluminium, whereas in the past they were looking to replace steel with aluminium to lightweight.
“The growth in battery and hybrid vehicles in the market is central to this, as delivering fully sustainable and high ductility components is critical for providing the automotive Industry lightweighting options to counter battery and hybrid vehicle base loads.”
“The demand we’re seeing, and trends in the market, is very much pointing towards the use of aluminium continuing to grow and we’re pleased to say is providing companies like Sarginsons with massive opportunities.”
Sarginsons has been at the forefront of diecasting for 80 years and is one of only a handful of European companies to offer low pressure diecasting, sandcasting and gravity diecasting in a single foundry.
Britain’s manufacturers continue to defy official statistics, with the number of companies reporting booming output, orders and exports returning to historic highs in the third quarter, according to the EEF, the sector’s representative body.
In what is likely to be welcome news for the government ahead of it unveiling its long-awaited industrial strategy, the buoyancy recorded by manufacturing appears to be spread across the country.
For the first time in two years, the balance of companies planning to increase investment was positive across all UK regions. The number of groups hiring new employees hit a three-year high, rising for the fourth consecutive quarter, and “confirming that the recovery in manufacturing is firmly on track”, said the EEF.
The optimism displayed in the survey of more than 400 industrial companies, by the EEF and BDO, a consultancy, contrasts with data out barely a month ago from the Office for National Statistics, which recorded stagnant manufacturing output for June, and a 0.6% contraction in output during the second quarter compared to the first.
However, EEF’s findings are reinforced by a similar survey from the CBI, the employers’ federation, which also found manufacturers recording robust output and orders in August.