A last ditch attempt to persuade industry to take advantage of the UK’s lead in manufacturing machinery technology is to take place at Bath University shortly.
If the 13 November meeting fails, ‘agile machinery’ could join the jet engine and the liquid crystal display on the list of inventions the UK failed to capitalise on.
Consultant Dr George Sweeney, who has been leading a campaign to interest industry, reckons the UK has a four-year lead over Japan in high-speed and reconfigurable manufacturing machinery technology.
Sweeney said: ‘We either do something with the technology or forget it. Either everything from the last year or two will come together or we say we tried, but got nowhere.’
The technology is based on advances in mechatronics and electronic and fluid power drive systems stemming from the 13-year academic/industrial Link research programme which winds down next year.
But so far there has been little interest from industry in using the technology, despite the efforts of Sweeney and colleagues, including the establishment of the Machinery Technology Centre in Macclesfield, Cheshire, to advise companies on the technology.
Two meetings are scheduled in Bath. The first will examine results of a study in which industrialists were asked how they thought the use of the technology and related software could be improved. At the second, the Agile Machinery Group will meet the Foresight panel on Manufacturing, Production and Business Processes.
Sweeney said the meetings have two aims: to establish the Foresight panel as an anchorage or power base for coordinating activities in agile machinery; and to set up a European initiative to act as ‘a springboard for reconfigurable machinery’.