Sheffield is set to play a major role in a new, national advanced material science institute, announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne today, in his Autumn Statement.
Both Sheffield University and its Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing will share in the £235m funding package for what will be known as the Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Material Science.
A further £61m has been allocated to the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, of which the AMRC is a leading member.
Much of the AMRC’s work in the Sir Henry Royce Institute is expected to focus on developments in powder metallurgy, aimed at improving the quality and capabilities of the technology, so that it can be more widely used in manufacturing.
Professor Keith Ridgway CBE, executive dean of the AMRC, said: “The chancellor’s announcement is further confirmation of the Sheffield region’s place at the forefront of developing technology so that it can give UK manufacturers a global competitive edge.
“There has been a lot of hype around some technologies involving powdered metals, but there are genuine practical opportunities, particularly if we can improve the quality of powders and processes.
“That is the sort of work we plan to be carrying out, thanks to this announcement.”
The AMRC will work closely with industrial partners, including local manufacturers, on programmes which are likely to focus on developing metal powders, powder quality and production and component manufacturing technologies which use powdered metals such as Metal Injection Moulding (MIM), Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) and Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP).
All three technologies were highlighted at a recent conference, run by the AMRC-based National Metals Technology Centre (NAMTEC), as offering unique opportunities for manufacturers.
The same conference heard that companies’ abilities to seize those opportunities depended on whether they could source clean powders, with high surface quality, defined particle sizes and guaranteed flow rates – key issues that are likely to be addressed by the Sir Henry Royce Institute’s work in the Sheffield region.
If solutions can be found to those quality issues, the potential for powder metallurgy technologies is set to increase in fields like aerospace – where the AMRC already has a well-established track record – and healthcare – where its recently established Medical AMRC is already making inroads.