New £5m lab gives West Midlands manufacturers super powers

24/05/2010

New £5m lab gives Midlands manufacturers super powers

A lab that gives engineers in Midlands manufacturing companies 'super powers' has helped a Midlands company build a super bike that has finished 2nd in the first ever MotoGP2 race in Qatar.

The bike’s builders have joined other engineers in Midlands manufacturing companies large and small who have effectively been granted the super powers of laser vision and x-ray eyes thanks to a £5 million lab launched at WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick.

Supported and funded by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the new £5 million Premium Vehicle Customer Interface Technologies (PVCIT) Centre brings together in a unique package: high resolution laser scanners, x-ray technology in a precision CT scanner, and the UK’s  highest resolution 3D “Power Wall”. Taken together these technologies will grant Midland’s manufacturers abilities that would normally be associated with superheroes and supercomputers rather than engineers.

Dr Mark Williams, WMG researcher and PVCIT Principal Investigator said:

West Midlands companies are already queuing up for free access to this technology which allows them to do everything from searching  for microscopic defects deep inside welded components to laser scanning  whole products as big as a car or van to create 3D models accurate to 5 thousands of a millimetre  which they can then display and manipulate on the Centre’s 3D “Power Wall”.”
 
Stephen Gray, Head of Clusters and Manufacturing at Advantage West Midlands said:

“The PVCIT centre joins other recent major initiatives in low carbon vehicle technology, intelligent transport, and vehicle light weighting to reinforce the West Midlands’ excellence in automotive engineering. The region already undertakes more than 60 per cent of the UK’s automotive  industry R&D and this project will not only develop our expertise further but also shape important aspects of design and engineering that influence how customers feel about and interact with vehicles.”

The WMG University of Warwick researchers were able to use this technology to help Fabrication Techniques Racing (FTR)  and their partners Stable Solution Ltd based in Wellesbourne in Warwickshire  to  laser scan a prototype engine bikes prototype engine  for their racing bike.

Mark Butler, Managing Director of  Stable Solution Ltd, said:
 
“This technology allowed us to development of a Digital Prototype,  shortened our development time by 2 months and helped the bike be ready in time to  finish in second place  in the first ever Moto2 race in Qatar just last week .”

Another local company to be one of the first through the doors of the new facility was Cab Automotive Ltd Tipton who manufacture high quality seats for the automotive industry and premium seating for niche transportation solution. They need to conduct detailed analysis of the quality of every weld joint but up till now could only do so by physical cutting apart and dissecting every weld.  By using PVCIT’s CT scanner they were able to use x-rays to precision scan every weld they needed in just 25 hours.

John Pendleton, Managing Director of Cab Automotive, said:

“The traditional approach  of testing weld quality is simply to cut welds open and look inside. Getting access to CT scanning method was significantly quicker, cheaper and effective. This non-destructive testing has already saved the company £50K in process savings.  We can see how this technology  can help us with quickly launch new products and processes to launch without having to go through lengthy new product development phases.”

The PVCIT  Centre formally launched with an address from Dr Mark Williams, PVCIT Principal Investigator and a talk by Stephen Gray, Head of Clusters and Manufacturing for AWM, on how the Centre is already helping to stimulate the West Midlands’ economy.

 

Your Advantage West Midlands contact

Will Harpur
Communications Executive
willharpur@advantagewm.co.uk
T: 0121 503 3311