The University of Huddersfield has helped a UK precision engineering company to introduce advanced manufacturing systems that will enable it to break into new global markets and quadruple its turnover.
Established 60 years ago, Craftsman Tools specialises in innovative methods of tool-holding and work-holding, and offers supply chain management services.
Now, it aims to diversify from sub-contract machining and increase its focus on designing and manufacturing its own products. It reportedly sees opportunities for strong growth within tool-holding.
The company’s goal is to boost turnover in this sector from £1.2m to £4m within five years, driven by increased productivity, flexibility and efficiencies thanks to a systems engineering approach and automated manufacturing.
Key issues raised by the new strategy are to be addressed by a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) formed between Craftsman and the University of Huddersfield, and financially backed by Innovate UK.
Central to the KTP is the appointment of an associate, based at the company. It is a challenging, multi-disciplinary project that demands high level design and mechanical engineering skills. The post has been awarded to Daniel Emsley, who studied for a MEng in Automotive Engineering at the University.
Emsley’s work will focus on the company’s tool-holding products investigating current manufacturing, inspection and design processes to bring about incremental changes. His work will firstly look at short-term improvements and eventually moving towards investing in new systems and equipment.
The project seeks to create new intelligent tool-holding by incorporating IoT sensing technology with dynamic models, enabling the prediction of surface finish during machining, and the ability to bore a hole with a greater length-to-diameter ratio, combating challenges facing many industries, including aerospace.
The KTP’s academic supervisor is Professor Andrew Longstaff and the lead academic is Dr Simon Fletcher, who explained that the project was scheduled to last for a longer-than-usual 30 months because it is multi-faceted, dealing not only with technical solutions to production engineering issues, but also marketing and tool-holding.
Dr Fletcher explained: “Daniel will be using computer engineering tools such as finite element analysis for design optimisation and he will develop lights-out production for more of the firm’s products. In order to do that he needs to design for manufacture. It is not just designing for functionality, but with a consideration of production efficiency.
“He will also be looking at the ability to perform inspection on the machine and alternative shop floor inspection methods to improve throughput, so he needs practical engineering skills and a metrology mind as well.”
The engineering firm Craftsman Tools have a well-established partnership with the University of Huddersfield. There was an earlier KTP that established on-machine probing to enable lights-out production. The firm and the University have also been awarded a grant by Innovate UK to develop intelligent tool-holding for metal-cutting machine tools.