HUDDERSFIELD is set to become a world-beating research centre for new technology in manufacturing.
Officials at Huddersfield University believe its new Centre of Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology will make it a world leader in the science of measuring for manufacture.
And the metrology (science of measuring) centre has secured £8m worth of funding, which will finance its cutting-edge research for the next five years.
It is the biggest single sum the university has ever been awarded for research. Most of the money will be used to pay for up to 20 post-graduate research students, supported by three full-time technicians.
The new centre was officially opened last week by Business Secretary Vince Cable, whose son is a physics graduate. Mr Cable was very interested in the work of the centre and asked several pertinent questions, according to university staff.
The centre, part of the university’s Centre of Precision Technology, received £4.7m from the Engineering and Physical Research Council.
A further £3m was invested by 11 British industrial partners, including Huddersfield companies David Brown and Cummings Turbo Technologies as well as Rolls Royce.
A delegation from Huddersfield University, including project director Professor Xiang Jiang, travelled to London and beat off stiff competition to secure the funding.
Prof Liam Blunt, director of the university’s Centre of Precision Technology, said: “We went up against all the other top universities in the UK; there were 69 applicants in all. We were the only university that used to be a polytechnic to be given funding.
“This was a real coup for us and shows how far we have come over the last few years.
“One of the reasons we got the funding is that a representative from Rolls Royce came along and spoke to the panel on our behalf. They have a £60bn order book and see us as a critical part of their development.
“The Centre of Precision Technology is putting Huddersfield on the map. We are a world leader in engineering research.”
The Centre’s eight high-tech laboratories includes the nano lab, containing laser scanners which can measure single atoms. Digital microscopes project images on to computer screens to be viewed by researchers wearing surgical rubber gloves and paper overalls, to maintain a pristine environment.
The purpose of these precise measurements is to help manufacturers produce high-tech products which work better, last longer and are cheaper to produce.
Prof Blunt added: “All our research is based around high added value products, which is the ultimate aim of all modern manufacturing companies.
“They are not making nuts and bolts any longer. They want to make something worth £1,000 or more and it requires a lot of technology input to be so ultra precise.
“Precise measurement and then evaluation of what is effective within the existing manufacturing process can also help them to set up their machines to make a better, less expensive product.”
One project the centre’s research scientists will work on is a new method of accurately measuring bullets and cartridge cases, which will ultimately help law-enforcement agencies. Other projects include making highly specialised moulds for optical lenses.
A further area of research is being carried out in conjunction with the London Implant Referral Centre, which is collecting failed artificial joints and sending them up to Huddersfield to detect what went wrong.
Researchers are taking detailed measurements and employing a high-tech polishing machine in a bid to improve the quality and durability of artificial knees, hips and ankles.