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Cranfield Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre

Cranfield Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre


An Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre,
or IMRC, is a collection of people who have been bought together to focus on a particular
challenge. It’s very much about bringing business and research together in a creative
environment, addressing real business issues and real manufacturing issues that help to
improve the competitiveness of manufacturing companies. This machine allows me to measure
incredibly small movements down to a couple of billionths of a metre in size. If we were
dealing with a much larger structure say a car, we could just give it to Jeremy Clarkson
to drive around a test track and he could tell us all about it. But when we’re dealing
with these things that are so incredibly small, we’re talking a thousandth of the size of
a human hair, we need to use these very exciting machines in order to allow us to see these
dimensional changes. So the machine allows us to design better devices, in particular
better very small devices; these micro devices. And we can find examples of these micro devices
in a whole host of different applications ranging from your Wii Fit all the way through
to your iPod Nano or your mobile phone in your back pocket. What we do is spend time
actually developing tools, techniques, methodology and ideas which help people inside industry
to improve the way they operate. This is a new type of laser. It’s a fibre laser and
this one is the biggest one of its type in the UK. And we are using it for development
of pipeline welding applications to significantly reduce the cost and impact of pipeline construction.
The machines in this room are super basic grinders. They’re designed to produce components
at a much higher speed than conventional machines. For industry, reducing the process time is
very, very important. The faster they can produce a part, the cheaper they can produce
it. The UK is the sixth largest manufacturing nation in the world. By helping to sustain the competitiveness of our companies, what we can do is not only improve the quality
of life inside the UK, but make a contribution to the quality of life internationally. This
machine is one of the most accurate machine tools in the world. We have used it for a
wide range of tasks over time, and one of the most interesting is for telescope applications.
In fact, we are contracted to NASA to make some of the spectrometer optics for the James
Webb space telescope so that we can identify the chemical composition of stars. A research
student will work on a project where there is an industrial supervisor and there is an
academic supervisor and together they will work through a problem which helps to provide
a set of ideas and a set of outcomes, which not only makes a contribution to knowledge
and to the academic community, but also makes a practical contribution to industry, creating
individuals with a scientific approach to improving manufacturing business. It’s that
skill set that they take out to the market place and will stay with them throughout their
career. We’re helping to develop processes for industry using the same equipment that
they have on the production line. These are processes which are pushing the boundaries
of what can be achieved with diamond turning where we’re making components that are not
circularly symmetric. These are important in order to make optical assembles smaller
and lighter and some of these go into things like vision systems for jets and so on. What
we can do is help to grow the UK economy. We can help to provide high quality jobs in
the UK economy, we can help to ensure that we are bringing business and research together
in a creative environment, addressing real business issues, real manufacturing issues,
that helps to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing companies. The research that
I’m undertaking is looking at high temperature materials for use within the gas turbine of
a modern jet engine. Our technology is to work and put a ceramic coating on top of the
metal part so that we can lower the amount of cooling air we need to keep the blade cool
to generate more thrust from the engine and therefore make a higher performance engine.
Potentially this technology could save a quarter percentage point in fuel consumption. For
someone like British Airways a saving of £25m per year in fuel costs. In other words, something
like 50,000 tons of CO2. The IMRC makes two important contributions. It develops the ideas
and knowledge; and the technologies which help UK manufacturing companies become more
globally competitive. It also develops the skills and the expertise in students, which
help them to make important contributions to the wider UK economy in facing the challenges
of the 21st Century.

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