Issue: Oct 2018


The opening of new world-leading engineering research centres at the University of Sheffield



The Automotive industry is set to benefit from the capabilities of two of the centres with a focus on materials used in components and turbochargers and in computational modelling and testing under extreme conditions such as heat and wind.

by Clinton Wright

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry MP and Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis MP officially opened the centres which aim to boost Sheffield City Region’s reputation as a hub for advanced engineering and industrial digital technologies.

 

The centres - the Royce Translational Centre (RTC), the Laboratory for Verification and Validation (LVV), and the Integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre (ICAIR) -  are located within the heart of the Sheffield City Region’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, a key element of the emerging Global Innovation Corridor that stretches across the Sheffield City Region.

 

Working with companies to help develop new technologies, the centres will use the transformational power of research to cut costs and lead times which will revolutionise industrial processes.

 

As part of their visit, the Minister and Mayor were given a tour of the new centres by Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Professor Hounslow highlighted some of the successful partnerships between the Centres and local businesses.

 

The RTC is home to Royce@Sheffield and the metals research group of AMRC, the National Metals Technology Centre (NAMTEC). Royce@Sheffield is one of the ‘spokes’ of the Henry Royce Institute and its work at the RTC is accelerating the benefits to industry in the field of Advanced Metal Processing including lightweight solutions for transport and the use of 3D printing (additive manufacturing) in automotive applications.

 

It provides access to a range of specialist equipment such as the Arcast gas atomiser and the Arcam Q10plus electron beam 3D printer to enable alloy development and production, powder production and parts production at a pre-commercialisation scale. RTC is looking at cost reduction in additive manufacturing to allow more automotive applications, as it is currently used for the high-end sector, such as Formula 1, rather than automotive mass production, due to the prohibitive cost.

 

Metron Advanced Equipment Limited, based in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, is working with the RTC to produce parts for automotive applications, such as turbochargers, from Titanium Aluminides (TiAl) using Additive Manufacturing (or 3D printing). Using advanced alloys with new technologies will enable the production of more complex parts with greater efficiency, providing the potential to exploit new commercial opportunities.

 

LVV is a unique facility for conducting vibration and acoustic testing across length scales and climatic environments, scaling up to real-world industrial application. It’s one of the only openly accessible research facilities of its kind in the world.

 

In addition to being able to study the dynamic behaviour of substantial engineering structures in both expected and extreme conditions, LVV is also focusing on the validation of computer models, which is crucial for both the design and continued safe use of critical structures and components. They can enable the development of more efficient, lower cost and more robust products to extend life span and predict how failures may occur.

 

LVV’s partnership with Sheffield-based Magnomatics, through the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Dynamics Research Group (DRG), focuses on testing the vibration performance of their magnetic gear components. They will now be able to use the environmental chambers at the LVV to test under extreme conditions such as temperatures of plus and minus 50 degrees, one of few openly accessible places they are able to do this in the UK.

 

The three world-leading translational research facilities are each housed in custom designed prestigious new buildings, creating 3,000 sq.m of high-technology facilities at an investment of £47m part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Each one builds upon the UK’s scientific research leadership to equip industry in these key priorities of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

 

The site is already home to the University of Sheffield’s world-leading Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Factory 2050 - the UK’s first state-of-the-art reconfigurable factory, as well as aerospace giant Boeing’s new fabrication facility.

 

The work taking place at the three new centres builds on the experience and expertise of the nearby University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) which works with partners such as Boeing, Rolls Royce and Airbus to help improve productivity, de-risk investment decisions, and accelerate the early adoption of industrial digital technologies to improve performance and quality.

 

The Minister praised the transformative work taking place and how it will allow businesses to gain access to university research expertise and use industrial digital technologies such as AI and robotics.

 

Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of the Faculty of Engineering, said: “At the University of Sheffield we deliver pioneering interdisciplinary research and find solutions to global challenges. The three centres launched today build on this established expertise and firmly place us as a key partner for industry. The capabilities of the centres will enable us to test and operate on an industrial scale, translating theory into application to improve productivity, cost efficiencies and innovation across a broad range of sectors.”

 

More about the three new centres:

 

Royce Translational Centre <https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/materials/centresandfacilities/royce/1.753443>  (RTC)

 

*            The University of Sheffield is one of the founding partners of the Henry Royce Institute <http://www.royce.ac.uk/> , the UK National Centre for Research and Innovation of Advanced Materials.

 

*            The Henry Royce Institute is a key driving force of the Northern Powerhouse and the investment of £235m is addressing the new-materials requirement of the Industrial Strategy

 

*            The Royce Translational Centre is home to Royce@Sheffield and the metals research group of AMRC, the National Metals Technology Centre (NAMTEC)

 

*            Royce@Sheffield is one of the ‘spokes’ of the Henry Royce Institute and its work at the RTC is accelerating the benefits to industry in the field of Advanced Metal Processing including: net shape aerospace components and lightweight solutions for transport

 

Laboratory for Verification and Validation <https://lvv.ac.uk/>  (LVV)

 

*            This world-leading facility will enable research into the optimal design and operation of advanced engineering structures when exposed to real-world vibration and environmental conditions. The facilities allow testing of both full structures (such as automobiles) and  substantial substructures and components of aircraft and wind turbines.

 

*            Funding for LVV was announced (on 29 July 2015) by then Prime Minister David Cameron <http://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-foreign-investments-boost-northern-powerhouse>  during a Northern Powerhouse trade mission to Malaysia and Singapore.

 

*            Experimental data, computer modelling and machine learning will allow industry to produce lighter, safer designs for a range of industrial sectors, including energy, aerospace and automotive.

 

*            Supports the government’s Industrial Strategy drive for faster accessibility of these benefits for industry.

 

Integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre <https://icair.ac.uk/>  (ICAIR)

 

*            Unique experimental facilities for investigating both underground and above ground constructed infrastructure.

 

*            Brings the power of optimisation, data, AI, robotics and advanced manufacturing techniques to the field of infrastructure to increase productivity in this sector, a key target of the Industrial Strategy.

 

*            Hosts the National Distributed Water Infrastructure Facility, part of the ‘UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure & Cities <http://www.ukcric.com/> ’ (UKCRIC), understanding how to make the nation’s infrastructure more resilient to extreme events and more adaptable to changing circumstances. ICAIR has been part-funded by the UKCRIC programme.

 

The new advanced engineering centres are part-funded by ERDF, which is administered via the Ministry for Houses, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and UKRI from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).



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