Engineering expertise for firms launches in North East

A PROJECT designed to give businesses access to manufacturing know-how has launched in the North East.

A PROJECT designed to give businesses access to manufacturing know-how has launched in the North East.

The Engineering and Physical Science Research Council’s Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Through-life Engineering Services is the result of a collaboration between Durham and Cranfield Universities, which allows firms the chance to improve design, reliability and cost-effectiveness of technological and engineered products.

The centre was launched last July at Cranfield University, and the North East arm of the project has now been added at Durham’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences. Representatives from organisations such as Caterpillar, UKTI, Business Durham and GT Group attended the launch event in Durham.

It will combine Cranfield’s expertise in mechanical engineering with Durham’s reputation for innovative electronic engineering, giving firms an insight into how to make products last longer and work better.

The collaborative initiative is supported by core partners BAE Systems, Bombardier, Rolls-Royce and the Ministry of Defence, as well as additional industry partners.

Professor Alan Purvis, of Durham University’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, said: “It’s very much about maintenance. If any companies have an issue with a product breaking down in the field, we have a national centre that tries to design in reliability and dependability. It’s a move toward making products last as long as they possibly can.”

Companies will be able to commission research projects or access expertise at both universities. They will also be able to take advantage of the instrumentation facilities at Durham’s North East Through-life Engineering Services Studio, or network with the Cranfield Studio in Bedfordshire.

Projects under way include the development of technologies which allow electronic and mechanical components to “fix” themselves, and improvements to reduce the cost of maintaining an aero engine during its lifespan.

Purvis said: “Increasingly companies are beginning to keep ownership of their assets. For example, it’s quite expensive to maintain aircraft engines, so companies often prefer to lease them from the manufacturer. As they are responsible for fixing them, the owner is very interested in design for maintenance. It is a very green, sustainable way of thinking.”

A number of PhD studentship and masters degree opportunities will be created as part of the project, and a total of five projects have a funding commitment.

The collaborators are also beginning to form relationships with other universities that may have complementary skills.

The through-life engineering services area is one of nine centres that share £45m in funding from EPSRC, which is used to retain staff, develop collaborations and look at projects over a five-year period.

Professor Rajkumar Roy, the EPSRC centre director and head of the Manufacturing and Materials Department at Cranfield University, said: “The EPSRC Centre is playing a major national role by supporting colleagues from other universities and research organisations working in through-life engineering services. The core research projects are already attracting significant industry involvement.”

 
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