The University of Sheffield AMRC with Boeing has secured funding for a £43 million research factory to support innovation in aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors.
The AMRC Factory 2050 will be the UK’s first fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing facility for collaborative research.
It will be capable of quickly switching production between different high-value components and one-off parts.
Government investment in the new facility comes in the form of a £10m grant from the Research Partnership Investment Fund, which is managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
The remainder of the £43m budget for the facility will come from industry partners including Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Spirit AeroSystems. There are around 70 industrial partners to the AMRC overall.
Professor Keith Ridgway CBE, executive dean of the University of Sheffield AMRC, announced plans for the new factory yesterday, promising that it would be the most advanced manufacturing facility in the world. “It will give us a home for the research and demonstration work associated with building the next generation of aircraft and energy technologies,” he explained.
The aim, said Mr Ridgway, is to enable the one-off production of any component and to instantaneously switch between components. “This will be a totally reconfigurable factory, one of the goals of the advanced manufacturing research strategy,” he summed up.
Professor Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, thanked HEFCE for its Factory 2050 funding support and said he is “deeply proud of the vision and talent” of the AMRC’s engineers. They “work directly with industry in ways which transform business, create jobs and strengthen our economy,” he said.
Advanced robotics, flexible automation and unmanned workspace technologies will all be installed in the AMRC Factory 2050. The facility will also support off-line programming in virtual environments linked to plug-and-play robotics, 3D printing from flexible automated systems, man-machine interfaces and new programming and training tools.
Covering an area of around 4,500 sq m, Factory 2050 will be constructed largely from glass in order to showcase the advanced manufacturing technologies being developed within. The location is yet to be decided but completion is scheduled for late 2014. Around 50 researchers and engineers will work in the new facility.