The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has called for proposals in three critical research areas focusing on innovative production processes.
The agency has identified reconfigurable assembly systems, self-adaptive equipment, and automation and mechanisation as fundamental areas to make UK manufacturing more flexible and reconfigurable, which would ensure the sector’s competitiveness on the global stage.
High-value manufacturing industries comprise 13% of the UK economy and over 50% of UK exports.
UK manufacturing is increasingly focused on high‑value, low-volume products and processes as it tries to remain competitive. In the future, the market will demand even more highly flexible manufacturing capability – processes with short cycle times and the ability to rapidly and efficiently reconfigure themselves to accommodate new customised” products.
Dave Delpy, chief executive of the EPSRC, said: “This call will allow for grants of between £1m and £2.5m to be spent on research projects spanning up to five years. They will fund highly challenging areas of research which are vital for the UK’s continued growth.
Improving production systems is a key component of the country’s manufacturing future along with developing advanced materials and training the next generation of manufacturing professionals.”
Proposals must address one or more of the areas below in a coherent programme of innovative research:
- Reconfigurable assembly systems: standardising both the methods of production system design and the machine units to enable a modular approach towards production system construction. Ultimately, fully integrated component production and assembly systems would be able to be rapidly assembled, involving seamless integration of heterogeneous manufacturing technologies.
- Self-adaptive equipment: allowing improved manufacturing process capability, reduced manufacturing cost, and greatly decreased product changeover times. Tools, jigs and fixtures must be capable of dealing with the evolution of products and production methodologies, minimising the need for process-specific manufacturing equipment.
- Automation and mechanisation: enabling safe and efficient co-working of human operators and automated systems in a customisable/modular production environment.