AMRC to help make ‘Great British Space Age’ vision a reality

Posted on 10 Sep 2018 by Jonny Williamson

The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has drawn together a team of high-tech engineers who will drive improvements in the UK manufacturing base which is critical to the success of the government’s space age mission.

The formation of AMRC/Space gives the region the opportunity to attract new investors at the forefront of smart technologies.
The formation of AMRC/Space gives the region the opportunity to attract new investors at the forefront of smart technologies.

This new AMRC capability will be led by Craig Roberts, with one of his team only recently returned from NASA following his discovery of a patent pending additive manufacturing technology that the agency is keen to progress.

While Roberts and his team will form the core of the new AMRC/Space capability, the unique feature of the initiative is described as the way “it will facilitate collaboration across not only the whole of the AMRC, including the Nuclear AMRC, but also the University of Sheffield’.

According to John Baragwanath OBE, executive director of the AMRC, this offers government and partners “access to an unrivalled range of expertise and technology”, which will hopefully accelerate the creation of a manufacturing base that can sustain and support successful space missions.

This includes satellite technologies that will be critical to the growth of digitally connected industries and communities here in the UK.

He added: “We share the vision of exploring space, but our work will have real benefit here on Earth.”

The AMRC/Space capabilities reportedly include:

  • thin walled and precision machining technologies
  • additive manufacturing, including multi-material and hybrid machining
  • joining technologies including automated adhesive and robotic welding
  • assistive technologies for batch production and mass customisation
  • augmented reality and virtual reality for right first time and training purposes
  • lightweighting
  • metrology and quality control, including inspection techniques driven by artificial intelligence.

The launch of AMRC/Space follows government’s announcement of UK space ports in Scotland and Cornwall to meet commercial vertical and horizontal launch demand estimated to be worth a potential £3.8bn to the UK economy over the next decade.

Baragwanath continued: “It is now well proven in other advanced manufacturing sectors that inward investors are increasingly looking to countries that can provide an advanced level of applied research, to work with them on the development of their products, enabling them to be delivered faster, cheaper and greener.”

The AMRC already works closely with global leaders in space and communication, such as BAE Systems, Boeing and Airbus.

Co-founder and fellow Executive Director of the AMRC, Adrian Allen, commented: “Our current research supports some of the most demanding industries in the world where the precision engineering of safety-critical components is paramount. Boeing, who are a founding partner, have been central to the exploration of space, from the first Mercury capsule, to the current International Space Station, and beyond to the Space Launch System.

“Likewise, our partner Airbus has been at the heart of Europe’s space endeavours for half a century. They are now working with another of our partners, Saffran, on the record breaking Ariane launcher programme. And BAE Systems, who are central to our mission in AMRC/North West, are key players in civil and commercial space communications.