According to Professor John Wood, head of the Department of Materials and Material Design at the University of Nottingham, many smaller companies are unaware of new developments taking place in materials science, such as high-performance metals for automobiles, bioactive polymers and ceramics for medical implants and functionally-graded materials for tooling and wear applications.
Although research is going on at university level, only programmes that take that research into industry are likely to benefit the manufacturing industry in the UK.
Fortunately, there are those that recognise the fact. One company involved in promoting such an interaction between universities and industry is the Teaching Company Directorate (TCD). The mission of the Farringdon, Oxon, based company is to support partnerships between companies and universities to enable business to make strategic advances in technology, and to help universities exploit their advanced knowledge.
Currently, companies participating in TCD schemes are involved in a variety of projects. At Glasgow-based Albion Automotive, for example, investigations are underway on the use of fibre reinforced plastics (FRP) in a TCD programme with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Albion Automotive Driveline Division, a company which makes axles, chassis components and crankshafts for large vehicles, aims to design and manufacture an independent suspension component in FRP. To do so, it has linked up with staff at Strathclyde to develop a concurrent design and manufacturing process to support the effort.
In another materials related programme, Lurgan, Northern Ireland company TFX Medical worked with the University of Ulster’s Northern Ireland Bio-Engineering Centre to develop a new guidewire coating. Since then, sales of the company’s products have risen by 40%.
Just two examples of where research in academia can work to help out industry. For more details on TCD projects, call 01367 245200 or visit the TCD Web site at www. tcd.co.uk.
Dave Wilson Editor