[Researchers talk briefly about some of the different projects they are working on]
Tim Baines [TB] - Professor of Strategic Manufacture
An Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre, or IMRC, is a collection of people who have been bought together to focus on a particular challenge. It’s very much about bringing business and research together in a creative environment, addressing real business issues and real manufacturing issues that help to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing companies.
Dr Robert Dorey [RD] - Senior Lecturer, Micro & Nanotechnology
This machine allows me to measure incredibly small movements down to a couple of billionths of a metre in size. If we were dealing with a much larger structure say a car, we could just give it to Jeremy Clarkson to drive around a test track and he could tell us all about it. But when we’re dealing with these things that are so incredibly small, we’re talking a thousandth of the size of a human hair, we need to use these very exciting machines in order to allow us to see these dimensional changes.
So the machine allows us to design better devices, in particular better very small devices; these micro devices. And we can find examples of these micro devices in a whole host of different applications ranging from your Wii Fit all the way through to your iPod Nano or your mobile phone in your back pocket.
What we do is spend time actually developing tools, techniques, methodology and ideas which help people inside industry to improve the way they operate.
Stewart Williams [SW] - Professor of Welding Science
This is a new type of laser. It’s a fibre laser and this one is the biggest one of its type in the UK. And we are using it for development of pipeline welding applications to significantly reduce the cost and impact of pipeline construction.
Dr Ian Walton [IW] - Research Fellow in Precision Engineering
[Sound of machine working]
The machines in this room are super basic grinders. They’re designed to produce components at a much higher speed than conventional machines. For industry, reducing the process time is very, very important. The faster they can produce a part, the cheaper they can produce it.
The UK is the sixth largest manufacturing nation in the world. By helping to sustain the competitiveness of our companies, what we can do is not only improve the quality of life inside the UK, but make a contribution to the quality of life internationally.
Paul Morantz [PM] - Principal Research Fellow, Precision Engineering
This machine is one of the most accurate machine tools in the world. We have used it for a wide range of tasks over time, and one of the most interesting is for telescope applications. In fact, we are contracted to NASA to make some of the spectrometer optics for the James Webb space telescope so that we can identify the chemical composition of stars.
A research student will work on a project where there is an industrial supervisor and there is an academic supervisor and together they will work through a problem which helps to provide a set of ideas and a set of outcomes, which not only makes a contribution to knowledge and to the academic community, but also makes a practical contribution to industry, creating individuals with a scientific approach to improving manufacturing business. It’s that skill set that they take out to the market place and will stay with them throughout their career.
We’re helping to develop processes for industry using the same equipment that they have on the production line. These are processes which are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with diamond turning where we’re making components that are not circularly symmetric. These are important in order to make optical assembles smaller and lighter and some of these go into things like vision systems for jets and so on.
What we can do is help to grow the UK economy. We can help to provide high quality jobs in the UK economy, we can help to ensure that we are bringing business and research together in a creative environment, addressing real business issues, real manufacturing issues, that helps to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing companies.
John Nicholls [JT] - Professor of Coating Technologies
The research that I’m undertaking is looking at high temperature materials for use within the gas turbine of a modern jet engine.
Our technology is to work and put a ceramic coating on top of the metal part so that we can lower the amount of cooling air we need to keep the blade cool to generate more thrust from the engine and therefore make a higher performance engine.
Potentially this technology could save a quarter percentage point in fuel consumption. For someone like British Airways a saving of £25m per year in fuel costs. In other words, something like 50,000 tons of CO2.
The IMRC makes two important contributions. It develops the ideas and knowledge; and the technologies which help UK manufacturing companies become more globally competitive. It also develops the skills and the expertise in students, which help them to make important contributions to the wider UK economy in facing the challenges of the 21st Century.