Initiative could lead to better industrial production processes

A new government initiative will aim to identify research and technology that has the potential to underpin better production processes in industry.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) will put up £6.5m for 16 major new research and development projects that will help to stimulate innovation in the UK’s manufacturing sector.

The EPSRC already has a portfolio of 350 live projects and an investment of £380m in the manufacturing sector.

‘That’s long-term basic research, which is what the research councils are focused on,’ chief executive Prof Dave Delpy explained to The Engineer. ‘Now a small proportion of those have potentially shorter-term, direct applications and that’s where we will work with TSB in order to make sure that the right academics are working with the companies that the TSB has identified as having the ability to pull those ideas through for the benefit of UK plc.’

The latest initiative will lead to the development of technologies such as autonomous intelligent machining; on-line control of welding processes using ultrasonic test techniques; and the sustainable and resource efficient cutting of titanium.

The latter project will look at using cryo-coolants rather than standard coolants in the cutting process to help dissipate heat more rapidly, which can enable cutting at a much higher rate and reduce the number of cutting steps required in the process.

Another project will take EPSRC-funded work at Cambridge University on terahertz radiation but apply it to monitoring and controlling car painting processes — essentially how thick the paint is.

‘This is a really interesting application for terahertz imaging, rather than just the security one at airports or biology applications that seem to get a lot of press,’ Delpy said.