National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to open state-of-the-art Mechanical Test Facility to support transition to a net-zero economy

Posted on 28 Jan 2021 by Tom Lane

The facility will support government aim to secure and create economic value through disruptive innovation. It will enable the certification and adoption of novel materials and products across high value manufacturing and engineering services.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) announces the official opening of its state-of-the-art Mechanical Test Facility (MTF). The MTF provides industry with a turnkey capability to evaluate, characterise and adopt new materials and products that demand a high level of assurance derived from test data. This allows businesses to innovate with new material applications, support substitution of alternate materials due to supply chain issues or assess in-service products. The MTF will enable the early uptake of new materials and allow quicker product development, supporting industrial innovation that will align to the government’s green recovery programme, boosting jobs, generating economic impact, and developing new skills, to help the transition to net zero.

NPL has a wide range of world class materials expertise in the fields of advanced composites, metals, ceramics, additive manufacturing and coatings. In conjunction with these capabilities, the MTF serves as a UK centre of excellence for research and commercial services providing materials assurance to UK industry.

net zero
Image supplied by NPL

The MTF is furnished with state-of-the-art test equipment from NPL’s partner Instron, installed in such a way as to address the current, emerging and future requirements of research and industrial application. Instron were the natural partner for the MTF due to the breadth of world-class mechanical test equipment they offer making it fit, not only for now, but for the future requirements of industry.

The MTF enables material suppliers, designers, end-users and process technology providers to evaluate, characterise and adopt advanced materials with confidence. Sectors benefiting include aerospace, renewables, oil and gas, marine, defence, construction, rail and automotive.

The digitalisation of the MTF ensures that NPL is at the forefront of materials data analytics and uncertainty analysis that can support virtual product assurance, enable variable fidelity simulation and innovative analysis processes. This digitalisation of the laboratory supports Industry 4.0 through the development of cyber-physical platforms to reduce the number of physical test iterations for materials assurance.

Offering traceability to national standards and extremely accurate readings over a wide range of loads, conditions and test methods, the MTF, combined with NPL’s experience in uncertainty of measurement, ensures confidence in results and is already being used to conduct projects under NPL’s Measurement for Recovery (M4R) programme.

Mark Summers, NPL’s Head of Advanced Manufacturing, said: “NPL’s mission is to provide the measurement capability that underpins the UK’s prosperity and quality of life, and the opening of the Mechanical Test Facility is that mission in action. As businesses continue to face diverse challenges due to COVID-19, using this facility will help to support their recovery through innovation. It will also ensure businesses can contribute to the green recovery and net zero ambitions by helping them better harness the power of advanced materials technology.”

Graham Rogers, Managing Director of Instron Europe, said: “Instron is delighted to be the partner of NPL and this extends our existing 50 years relationship well into the future. This covers not only the supply of advanced Mechanical Testing Systems, but also collaboration in advanced testing technology and techniques to support innovation across UK industry.  The equipment selected by NPL represents the most advanced in the industry and particularly well suited to support the UK’s environmental ambition, through the use of lightweight materials, alternative energy sources and novel manufacturing techniques”.