How the Connected Everything Network is accelerating digital manufacturing

Accelerating digital manufacturing research between academia and industry is a key objective of the Connected Everything network. Oliver Fisher, from the University of Nottingham, outlines its latest collaborations in support of the UK’s manufacturing industry.

As digital technology advances, the manufacturing sector must adapt and respond to a great number of drivers and barriers. Key to addressing these challenges will be a strongly cross-disciplinary approach, facilitated through a UK-wide network of academics and industry partners.

Hosted by the University of Nottingham, Connected Everything is an Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) funded Network Plus for the digital manufacturing community which is addressing the question, “How do we support the future of manufacturing in the UK?”

To accelerate knowledge transfer between academia and industry, the Network funds feasibility studies that demonstrate how techniques and approaches can be transferred from other disciplines into industrial and manufacturing contexts. Following are our ongoing studies that provide an insight into the research supported by the Connected Network.

Manufacturing 3D-printed morphing origami solar sails for the next generation of CubeSats The project lead, Stefania Soldini (University of Liverpool), is working in partnership with Oxford Space Systems and Japan Aerospace Exploration exploring Additive Manufacturing (AM) to prototype a new morphing origami solar sail mechanism for next-generation self-reconfigurable CubeSats. A solar sail is an origami thin, lightweight, highly-reflective membrane capable of harnessing the effect of the sun’s radiation pressure. It enables fuel-free propulsion by reflecting the intensity of the sunlight.

This project will demonstrate the feasibility of a new generation of origami solar sail’s membrane that, by changing its local surface reflectivity, will trigger shape reconfiguration for multi-operational CubeSats.

AgentChat: feasibility of large-scale, multi-agent based coordination for freight co-loading Freight co-loading increases the utility of freight capacity by including shipments from multiple exporters onto the same freight. Benefits of freight co-loading may include reduced carbon, cost of shipment and congestion at receiving locations.

In the UK and Europe, only 63% of journeys carry a useful load and average vehicle utilisation is under 60%. AgentChat will explore the feasibility of an alternative solution to address these challenges. AgentChat involves two key aspects: a distributed, multiagent software system that automates solution search and optimisation; and a learning algorithm to reduce solution search space over time. This is a collaborative project lead by Alexandra Brintrup (University of Cambridge) in partnership with Value Chain Lab and

University of Nottingham, connected everything

Embedded intelligent empathy in design Anna Chatzimichali (UWE Bristol) is leading this project with Rheon Labs, Bonnie Binary and Vasthu, to model empathy and systematically integrate it in computational design. One of the key challenges in the digital age is creating products that trigger emotional connections. Empathy is the capacity to create an emotional connection.

This study is focused on sound, exploring how oral attributes can stimulate empathy in product users and is based on an existing architectural workflow that will be adapted to accommodate the design of smart products.

The project will generate a workflow between machines, data and people to enable design optimisation processes that have matured over the years to be ready for the era of embedded intelligent empathy Studying mental stress factors in occupational safety in the context of smart factory and COVID-19.

This article first appeared in the October issue of The Manufacturer.

Click here to subscribe 


The use of collaborative robots (cobots) in the industrial setting has grown and continues to grow globally. Humans and cobots are ever-increasingly expected to share their workspace and associated issues related to workplace health and safety are expected to rise.

This study, lead by Azfar Khalid (Nottingham Trent University) in partnership with Pepsico International, seeks to further understand the impact on workers’ mental health in relation to the task variables (complexity, time constraints, production speed, duration, etc) while working alongside the cobot. The acquired patterns will be used to formulate a regulatory framework for the design of collaborative space in industrial manufacturing systems and to support the advancement of international standards on cobots.

University of Nottingham, - connected everything

Digital twins for compliance debts in smart manufacturing ‘Compliance debt’ is a form of technical debt; it is a phenomenon characterised by the gap between what level of compliance can be achieved under uncertainty with the available resources and information.

This project is an exploratory study on formulating the concept of compliance debt in digital manufacturing and investigation into the requirements, novel reference architectures and associated techniques for combining this with spectrums of digital twins.

The objective is to provide industries with debt-aware data analytic and decision support tools for diagnostics and prognostics analysis for compliance and self-assurance as moving targets. This is a collaborative project lead by Rami Bahsoon (University of Birmingham) in partnership with Uptime Institute.

* Connected Everything will be at Digital Manufacturing Week 2020, challenging delegates to consider Digital Manufacturing in 2050.