Innovative high value production process

Tuesday 28th February 2012
High value manufacturing. Courtesy:

Reconfigurable assembly systems; self-adaptive equipment; automation and mechanisation are the three interlinked research areas critical to addressing the challenge of flexible and reconfigurable manufacturing systems that will be necessary to keep the UK economically competitive. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is calling for proposals.

UK manufacturing has increasingly focused upon high‑value, low-volume products and processes to remain competitive. In the future, the market will increasingly demand highly “flexible” manufacturing capability – processes with short cycle times and the ability to rapidly and efficiently reconfigure themselves to accommodate new “customised” products. Maintaining productivity and reliability, whilst allowing flexibility and adaptability, is a major technological challenge. High-value manufacturing industries comprise 13% of the UK economy and over 50% of UK exports.

Having committed to four innovative manufacturing centres The EPSRC is now calling for three major area  proposals.

Dave Delpy, (left) CEO of the EPSRC said, “This call will allow for grants of between £1m and £2.5m to be spent on research projects spanning up to five years.  They will fund highly challenging areas of research which are vital for the UK’s continued growth. Improving production systems is a key component of the country’s manufacturing future along with developing advanced materials and training the next generation of manufacturing professionals.”

Proposals must address one or more of the areas below in a coherent programme of innovative research:

 Reconfigurable Assembly Systems, where the objective is to standardise both methods of production system design and machine units to enable a modular approach to production system construction. Ultimately, fully integrated component production and assembly systems would be capable of being rapidly assembled, involving seamless integration of heterogeneous manufacturing technologies.  Research topics could include:

  • Co-operative production machines and control systems
  • Adaptive planning and control solutions and architectures
  • Incorporation of IT Systems, sensors and measurement technology

 Self-Adaptive Equipment allow improved manufacturing process capability, reduced manufacturing cost, and greatly decreased product changeover times. Tools, jigs and fixtures must be capable of dealing with the evolution of products and production methodologies, minimising the need for process-specific manufacturing equipment. For example, research topics could include:

  • Novel adaptive tooling, fixturing and jigging architectures
  • Incorporation of in-line metrology-control
  • Real-time non-destructive evaluation technologies

Automation and Mechanisation, enable safe and efficient co-work of human operators and automated systems in a customisable/modular production environment. For example, research topics could include:

  • Human/machine interface
  • Real-time process analytics and control

Novel automated manufacturing processes          

One for the Scottish Research Partnership to get its teeth into

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