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AME sets its sights on unlocking supply chain potential after £6m expansion

Posted on 09 Nov 2023 and read 1639 times
AME sets its sights on unlocking supply chain potential after £6m expansionAME laser processing

The UK’s first ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’ has unveiled a £6 million expansion that aims to boost UK industry’s journey towards a clean, sustainable, and digital world. Coventry University’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME), which was originally born out of a collaboration with Unipart Manufacturing in 2014, relaunched yesterday at a special event that attracted over 200 domestic and international guests.

Benefitting from a £5 million University investment coupled with a £1 million grant from the Government’s Local Growth Fund though the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), the recent changes have delivered nearly 2,000m2 of additional space that is home to ‘state of the art’ laser welders, six new laboratories, a robotic and testing area and new digital twin capabilities.

The ‘relaunch’ marks nearly a decade of achievement for AME, with over £110 million of R&D and commercial projects completed for iconic names such as Aston Martin, Ford, Lotus and Hyperbat, helping generate more than £500 million of economic benefits for the UK. Nearly 175 companies – including OEMs, Tier Ones and SMEs in the supply chain – have been involved in collaborative work, while more than 400 students have graduated through the unique combination of real-world shopfloor and classroom learning.

Pioneering research

Marcos Kauffman, director of AME and centre director of the university’s Research Centre for Manufacturing and Materials, said: “The AME expansion is more than just physical growth; it is a testament to our unwavering commitment to bridging the skills and R&D gap between academia and industry. From our inception in 2014 to today, AME has consistently aimed to be at the forefront of innovative teaching and research with our ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’ model. This expansion is a beacon of our dedication to nurturing industry-ready talent while also fostering pioneering research that helps solve everyday issues.”

He added: “We are more energised than ever to open our doors to the wider manufacturing and engineering supply chain in the West Midlands, giving them access to world-class facilities, equipment, and experts. Together, we will support the UK’s collective journey into a clean, sustainable and digital world.”

AME aims to be at the forefront of the UK’s journey towards ‘net zero’ and support business growth, where ideas become reality, and the future of sustainable mobility is redefined. This will be achieved by creating the engineers and researchers of the future and providing an ecosystem that cultivates new technologies, supply chain development and start-up potential.

The latest £6 million of funding takes the total investment in AME to £18 million in total, with the latest facilities including a digital twin pilot environment, a series of physical stations that maximise the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), as well as dedicated materials, metrology, lasers and functional materials and chemistry laboratories. With its diverse capabilities, AME has been instrumental in spearheading innovative projects that have significantly enhanced precision and efficiency in production through cutting-edge manufacturing.

For example, its expertise has been crucial in crafting lightweight, eco-friendly products, and methodologies, and has already helped create high-volume fuel rails that are now exported from Coventry to China and other parts of the world. AME is also committed to advancing the UK’s growing reputation in manufacturing digital systems and laser processing by contributing to the burgeoning sector of electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing.

Transformative solutions

Coventry University vice-chancellor Professor John Latham said: “AME’s vision has always been about creating transformative solutions for the industry and pressing social challenges. With this expansion, we are poised to increase our reach and have an even greater impact on students, industry, and the local economy.”

Carol Rose Burke, managing director at Unipart Manufacturing, said: “We are thrilled about the expansion of the AME a pioneering initiative between Unipart and Coventry University to bridge the gap between industry and academia. As the transport sector transitions to EV manufacturing and greener solutions, Coventry University’s latest investment will empower AME to expand Unipart’s expertise and capabilities into new sectors. This involves collaborating on R&D with academia and strengthening ties with supply chains – including small and medium-size firms – all working together to generate business growth.”

As well as over 200 guests attending the event in person, high-fidelity 3-D models of the facilities and equipment in AME were used to create a digital universe – known as a metaverse. This gave people from more than 15 countries the opportunity to take part in the live event using a digital representation of themselves. They were able to move their avatar around a digital replica of AME, joining in the physical sessions remotely, listening to the presentations and interacting with other people in the metaverse and at the event.