Coveted industry accolade for manufacturing innovators

Posted on 25 Nov 2014 by Victoria Fitzgerald

An innovative geometry scanner that can measure micro surface topography, especially in extreme situations has won an Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Award 2014.

The University of Huddersfield has won the Manufacturing Technology category for the cutting edge measurement technology used for their Wavelength Scanning Interferometer (WSI).

The innovation behind WSI provides an instrument for the measurement of micro and nano geometry and surface topography in environments of notably harsh conditions. It can provide robust solutions for a variety of measurements, including those which are non-contact or high speed.

The WSI sensor has applications in many product types; the first main application currently being investigated is the manufacture of roll-to-roll vapour barrier coatings for flexible PV (photovoltaic) cells, where the WSI is able to detect defects in the coating that can have a critical impact on product longevity. Minimising these types of defects will ultimately reduce the cost (and increase the reliability) of the flexible PV cells thus improving and widening uptake of this type of renewable energy.

More generally, the concept of embedded measurement, as exemplified by the WSI sensor, will dramatically improve yields through improved process control and will lead to lower cost thus increasing uptake of technologies by consumers.

This will be noticeable in areas such as flexible/printable electronics, roll-to-roll manufacture of structured films (for flat panel displays, solar concentrators etc.), as well as more traditional areas of manufacture such as: aerospace, automotive, semiconductor, and bio-engineering applications as well as paper applications such as food packaging, banknotes, etc.  It will significantly reduce manufacturing costs and help industry move towards zero waste and carbon neutral production.

The University of Huddersfield scooped the award beating four other shortlisted entries, selected from over 400 entries from 22 countries. The other shortlisted entries came from Penn Engineering, MecWash Systems Ltd, LeddarTech and the Suzhou Institute of Nanotech, Chinese Academy of Sciences and O-Film Technology Inc.

William Webb, IET president said: “The IET Innovation Awards celebrate the best in global innovation, highlighting the rapid and exciting pace of development in today’s engineering and technology industry.

“Congratulations to the University of Huddersfield team for their win. They were selected from a highly impressive set of global innovations as one of the most forward thinking, pioneering innovations in the field.

“These awards are part of the IET’s mission to inspire engineering excellence, which last year provided over £500,000 to celebrate excellence and research in the sector and inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians.

“Our awards recognise and reward the industry’s elite, from apprentices and technicians at the start of their careers through to senior established professionals.”

Jane Jiang, director of EPSRC Centre at the University of Huddersfield, said: “We are really pleased to have won this award – it’s great to receive such recognition from an institution as renowned and long-running as the IET.

“Hopefully this award will mean that we can continue to invest in the innovation for many more years, to ensure that factory targets are supported with the best available means.”