Brunel University London has opened a new Advanced Metal Processing Centre which aims to help UK car and aerospace manufacturers to better benefit from revolutionary new metal processing and casting techniques.
The new centre provides a massive boost for manufacturers to work with Brunel on large-scale research and development activity, enabling innovations – such as novel structures for lightweight car parts – to make the leap from the lab to full-scale industrial trials.
Especially in the automotive industries, new materials create a strong disruptive impact, because one way to reduce the carbon footprint of vehicles is to reduce their weight through the implementation of new lighter metal structures.
The Manufacturer reported in April on how aluminium group Norsk Hydro, makes use of the advantages of processing aluminium components for the automotive industries around the globe.
£15m grant from the government
The AMPC is funded by £15m from the UK government, providing the equipment and infrastructure to attract industrial match funding through people and resources from partners such as Constellium and Jaguar Land Rover.
This will help to develop the future generation of engineers, designers, scientists and materials specialists, and to accelerate automotive lightweighting through the deployment of world-leading, high-performance aluminium alloys and innovative technologies.
The AMPC’s 1,500 square metres of working space, in a bespoke building on Brunel’s campus in Uxbridge, is the second phase of BCAST’s scale-up facility, following on from 2016’s launch of the Advanced Metal Casting Centre (AMCC).
Professor Zhongyun Fan, director of BCAST, said: “The AMPC is a hugely important investment for both BCAST and for our current and future research partners.
“BCAST’s long-term aim is to reduce the amount of new metal mined from the ground to a minimum. So, it is essential that we continue to be able to find even better ways of creating high-quality components and systems from metals that have already been used at least once.”
The industrial and pilot-scale metal processing equipment enables:
- processing and fabrication of extruded metals, such as novel bending processes, machining and advanced joining techniques
- further casting processes, such as gravity die casting and sand casting, adding to those available in the AMCC
- supporting materials characterisation, such as for testing strength and fatigue, and including 3D x-ray tomography.
A key feature of the AMPC and AMCC is that BCAST’s researchers and seconded engineers from its partners will work side by side.
At the same event, Constellium announced the expansion of its research and development capability at Brunel. After establishing a University Technology Centre in 2016, Constellium is dedicating an R&D Centre within the campus to transition technology from the laboratory to its production facilities around the world.
Paul Warton, president of Constellium’s Automotive Structures and Industry business unit, commented: “The automotive industry is advancing technology at an unprecedented pace, and the AMPC is a tremendous resource for automakers, allowing rapid prototyping with state-of-the art forming and joining techniques to help shape lightweight, high-strength components for the next generation of vehicles.
“Constellium is thrilled to be expanding its presence at Brunel University London and to be at the forefront of development for aluminium automotive structural components.”
Warton spoke warmly about the international projects Constellium had already delivered stemming from work with BCAST, including one for Tesla: “The Model 3 is supplied with the front and rear crash management systems from Constellium that we developed with ultra-high-strength alloys here in Brunel.”