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University To Lead Sustainable Manufacturing Project With New Metrology Hub

The UK’s University of Huddersfield is to lead a £13.3 million ($16.6 million) project to help advance sustainable manufacturing, building directly upon the success of its Future Metrology Hub. The UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced funding of £11m (13.75m) towards the new advanced manufacturing hub with a focus on metrology in a bid to enable net zero manufacturing.

Led by academics at the University of Huddersfield, it will aim to develop groundbreaking new technologies which will enable a step change in capability for process monitoring and control. These technologies will include ultra-fast and compact sensors utilising nanophotonic metamaterials and quantum sensing along with resilient interpretable metrology informatics, and whole-system control solutions which are applicable to any precision manufacturing sector.

A total of £8m ($8.8m)  will come directly to Huddersfield as part of the new Hub, making it one of the largest research grants the University has ever received, while the total value of the project as a whole is expected to reach £24.3m ($30.4) when funding from the consortium and other partners is factored in.

World-renowned expert in the field of advanced metrology Professor Dame Xiangqian (Jane) Jiang leads the project which is based at the University’s Centre for Precision Technologies (CPT) and will run for seven years. The new hub, which will be known as the Future Advanced Metrology Hub for Sustainable Manufacturing, includes research spokes selected for their specific expertise at The University of Southampton, The University of Oxford, Heriot-Watt University and Queen’s University Belfast.

In addition, the project will involve innovation spokes at catapult centres the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, as well as the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, which also has a North of England base on campus in Huddersfield.

More than 25 industrial partners, including Renishaw, Machine Tool Technologies (MTT), Taylor Hobson, Cummins and Siemens, are also a key part of the project.

More than 25 industrial partners, including Renishaw, Machine Tool Technologies (MTT), Taylor Hobson, Cummins and Siemens, are also a key part of the project.

Metrology underpins the entire scope of manufacturing and product verification and the constant drive for accuracy, speed, cost, reduced waste, reduced energy usage and enhanced product quality has seen measurement technologies become a crucial tool in enhancing manufacturing sustainability.

Ultimately such advances in metrology have the potential to achieve a step change in autonomous assembly, reducing industries’ reliance on cheap international labour. In turn this has the potential to significantly reduce the carbon cost of transportation for many types of manufactured goods.

Professor Jiang, who is a Professor of Precision Metrology at the University, the chief scientist at the CPT and director of the current Future Metrology Hub, said: “This new Hub brings together a consortium of world-leading experts in metrology to address the significant challenges the manufacturing sector faces in meeting net zero goals. The critical mass funding support from EPSRC is a reflection of the consortium’s research strength and capacity to deliver groundbreakingly new technologies.”

The EPSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation, is funding the Hub under its Manufacturing Research Hubs for a Sustainable Future initiative, announcing five with a total of £55m this week – all focusing on different disciplines. Last year two initiatives were funded in the first round with £24m in EPSRC funding.

EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Charlotte Deane said: “Given the scale and importance of the UK’s manufacturing sector we must ensure that it is able to benefit fully from advances made across the research and innovation ecosystem. With their focus on innovation and sustainability the advances made by the hubs will benefit specific sectors, the wider manufacturing sector and economy, as well the environment.”

Science Minister, Andrew Griffith said: “Manufacturing accounts for almost a tenth of the UK’s economic output, but for the sector to keep growing and sustaining jobs nationwide, it has to tackle challenges ranging from reducing emissions, to cutting production costs. These new hubs will support UK researchers with the cutting-edge facilities they need, to help our manufacturers seize the benefits of technologies such as robotics and AI. Harnessing these innovations will cement the UK’s position as a global leader in sustainable manufacturing.”

Huddersfield’s new Future Advanced Metrology Hub for Sustainable Manufacturing builds directly upon the existing EPSRC Future Metrology Hub, which in turn built upon the achievements of the Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology, also hosted at Huddersfield, and funded by the EPSRC.

The existing Hub, which ends this year, has played a leading role in the development of new industry standards and has engaged with over 150 companies since it began in early 2017. These interactions have generated over £2 million of commercial income through collaborations with industry and leveraged a further worth £10m of industry-led research projects. Successes include collaborations with Digital Surf, which saw the Hub team up with the leading company in surface analysis to develop new state-of-the-art surface analysis solutions; and its research also contributed to the formation of Wayland Additive, an offshoot of local manufacturing company Reliance Precision, offering an in-process metrology solution that can monitor powder deposition layer by layer in novel additive manufacturing processes.

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