Materials tests could make industry more competitive

The National Physical Laboratory is to undertake a materials measurement programme aimed at boosting the competitiveness of British industry. The Characterisation and Performance of Materials scheme is backed by the Department of Trade and Industry, will cover five materials areas, and will be advised by industry. The five areas covered are: polymeric materials; coatings; biomaterials; […]

The National Physical Laboratory is to undertake a materials measurement programme aimed at boosting the competitiveness of British industry.

The Characterisation and Performance of Materials scheme is backed by the Department of Trade and Industry, will cover five materials areas, and will be advised by industry.

The five areas covered are: polymeric materials; coatings; biomaterials; ceramics and hard materials; and functional materials. Biomaterials research will be performed by external bodies; the NPL will handle the other work.

The polymerics research will look at improving data on plastics for use in CAD software. The project aims to boost performance accuracy of this software.

In coatings, tests will evaluate existing adhesion methods, improve measurement techniques, and develop new test methods. The properties of surface layers and multi-layered coatings are also to be examined to improve the performance of parts. Abrasion, wear and erosion testing will be analysed to enhance the performance of coatings.

In ceramics, research will focus on microstructures. This includes measuring grain-size distribution, grain shape and property relationships for ultrafine-grained materials. Research on the mechanical properties of hard materials will deal with the difficulties in assessing properties such as fatigue strength.

Research being conducted on functional materials will examine performance under high-frequency load cycling conditions to ensure reliability. Fatigue performance on ceramic materials will be studied, as will the performance of thin-film devices used in microactuators and micromotors.

The DTI hopes that when the project is complete in 2002, UK engineers will be in a stronger competitive position.

* A Department of Trade and Industry backed measurement helpline has been set up involving the UK’s four national laboratories. Based at the National Physical Laboratory the helpline, on 0180 943 7070, aims to provide the information or the names of experts immediately to engineers calling within office hours. Information covered by the helpline includes measurement training, process control, analytical science, standardisation, regulation, engineering, accreditation, calibration, materials and trading standards. Information can also be accessed at: www.nmpuk.co.uk