Factory of the future opens in Sheffield

Posted on 4 Dec 2015 by Fred Tongue

The keys for the new factory have been handed over to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in a plan to attract more manufacturers to Sheffield.

Factory 2050 is part of the University of Sheffield’s new advanced manufacturing campus on Sheffield Business Park. The glass-walled building is a “reconfigurable factory” and was designed by architects Bond Bryan.

Now that the keys to the building have been handed over, AMRC is now installing the advanced technology that will be used in research programmes that will be run there.

AMRC executive dean, professor Keith Ridgway CBE commented: “We aim to make Factory 2050 the most advanced factory in the world, built to carry out collaborative research.

The building is located in the Sheffield Business Park.
The building is located in the Sheffield Business Park and is part of the University of Sheffield’s advanced manufacturing campus.

“It has been designed to ensure the UK’s advanced manufacturing supply chain can access the expertise it needs to make the most of new challenges and opportunities, and that our region retains its international lead in high value manufacturing.”

The Sheffield City Region is part of the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, and it’s hoped that Factory 2050 will repeat the successes of the AMRC.

The plan is to attract advance manufacturers and create well-paid, high level engineering jobs to the Advance Manufacturing Innovation District.

AMRC’s Integrated Manufacturing Group (IMG) will be based at Factory 2050, and the IMG is already installing complex manufacturing and assembly technologies, advanced robotics, flexible automation, next generation man-machine interfaces, and new programming and training tools to help drive research and projects.

IMG’s Ben Morgan said: “Factory 2050 will allow us to explore the techniques and technologies that are vital to achieving the mass customisation of products now being demanded by companies and consumers.

“We will be helping manufacturers respond to increasing requirements to rapidly change product designs and switch between making high-value components and one-off parts for customers from diverse sectors.

“And, we will be developing systems that enable machines and process equipment to automatically modify the way they work, in order to maximise production rates and quality, minimise tool wear and respond to any breakdowns.”

Factory 2050 will house data driven, reconfigurable assembly technologies, and will be able to accommodate larger footprint projects along with commercially sensitive ones.

The shop floor is fully configurable and can accommodate a wide range of projects.
The shop floor is fully configurable and can accommodate a wide range of projects.

Some of the initial projects that will take place in the new facility include a programme to take aerospace manufacturing technology into the construction industry, explore future digital factory technologies for building commercial aeroplanes, and a project to investigate digitally assisted assembly technologies which could help to fill a looming skills gap in the aerospace sector.

Factory 2050 cost £43m and was partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Higher Education Council for England, with both bodies providing £10m worth of funding.

It could employ up to 70 people and is expected to contribute almost £2m directly to the local economy every year.

Installing equipment will take several months and Factory 2050 is expected to be fully operational by spring 2016.