The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) (www.strath.ac.uk
) is to be the UK spoke in a new North West Europe project designed to transform the machining sector by helping 1,300 SMEs to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies.
‘Machining 4.0’ — a three-year project funded by Interreg Europe — will help to boost the growth of SMEs in the machining sector, which has suffered from a lack of innovation — plus increased competition from low-wage countries — over the last five years.
The AFRC is the only UK partner; the other nine partners include Belgium-based Sirris and eight organisation in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland.
One thousand SMEs will ‘receive knowledge’ of innovative manufacturing technologies; another 250 will be encouraged to experiment with new technologies and collaborate with R&D partners; and another 50 SMEs will be chosen to receive intensive business support.
The AFRC is bringing a blend of expertise in advanced machining strategies, materials characterisation and residual stress to the project.
It is developing a legacy machine tool, integrating it with low-cost sensors to extract information that will help to improve machining processes.
Analytical tools will also be introduced to help users make informed decisions in key areas, such as the distortion of components during machining. The AFRC has now joined forces with the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) to identify 10 SMEs in the UK that are in need of support.
AFRC project leader Kareema Hilton said: “Industry 4.0 gives us a fantastic opportunity to share the vast knowledge and practical examples that we’ve developed across the important areas of machining and materials characterisation here at the AFRC.
“Using these complementary areas of expertise, we will help firms to better understand their products and the effect that manufacturing processes — such as machining — have on those products.
“This will help them to boost efficiency and ultimately become more competitive.”