The future is electric: new hub launched to increase electrification in UK manufacturing

12 February 2019
  • £28 million pound investment, underpinned by a £10m award from the EPSRC with further investment from industry and the Universities of Sheffield, Newcastle and Strathclyde

  • Hub will aim to design new electrical machines with improved performance, such as offshore wind turbines and electric vehicles

  • Project will work with industry to drive innovation and overcome manufacturing challenges

The AMRC is part of a new Hub, led by the University of Sheffield, combining expertise in electrical machines and manufacturing for the first time, aiming to put the UK at the forefront of an electrification revolution.

We are witnessing a huge global shift towards cleaner growth and more resource efficient economies with electrical machines at the heart of the move towards electric cars, planes and the use of renewable energy such as offshore wind. However, there are significant manufacturing challenges, particularly around new materials and the application of digital approaches.

The £28m investment, underpinned by a £10m award from the EPSRC, will enable researchers from the new EPSRC Future Electrical Machines Manufacturing Hub to work with industry on addressing key manufacturing challenges, designing new electrical machines with improved performance for the aerospace, energy, automotive and premium consumer sectors.

The drive to lower carbon emissions is resulting in dramatic changes in how we travel and the ways we generate and use energy worldwide. New electrical machines with improved performance - higher power density, increased efficiency and improved reliability - are being designed by researchers and industry to address the need for clean growth and the challenging demands of new applications.

However, there are significant manufacturing challenges to overcome if UK industry wants the ability to manufacture these new machines at an appropriate cost and with the right levels of flexibility and quality.

With funding from the EPSRC and industrial partners including Rolls Royce, Airbus, Siemens Gamesa, GKN Aerospace, McLaren and Dyson, the team, led by the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), will work with academics at Newcastle University and the Advanced Forming Research Centre in Strathclyde to solve these issues.

Industry Minister Richard Harrington said: “This investment brings together world-class researchers and leading manufacturing firms to help revolutionise how key industries like steel operate in the future.

“These developments will help us build a smarter, greener and more efficient manufacturing sector in the UK which is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy to harness the opportunities of clean growth creating more high-skilled jobs.

“We are determined to ensure the UK sets the global best standard for making our energy intensive industries competitive in the new clean economy.”

Professor Keith Ridgway, founder and Executive Dean of the AMRC, said: “The Hub will play a crucial role in addressing key challenges around the manufacture of electrical machines and we’re delighted to be part of a strong, collaborative team whose combined talents and capabilities are at the very cutting edge of advanced technologies and digital manufacturing research.

“Electric machine design, performance and manufacture is an exciting area to work in and one which requires the strength of each of the partners if UK industry is to overcome these challenges and deliver on increasing electrification in UK manufacturing.”

Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of the Faculty of Engineering, said: “The University has world-leading research capability in electrical machines and in manufacturing.

“The significance of this new initiative is that we can bring these together with contributions from partners, not simply to understand and design machines but to ensure they can be manufactured reliably, and economically, in the UK.”

Professor Geraint Jewell, Director of the EPSRC Future Electrical Machines Manufacturing Hub, said: “'The rapid move towards the electrification of transport and the surge in renewable energy generation is making this an exciting time for the manufacture of electrical machines in the UK. This is the first activity to combine electrical machines expertise with a broad range of manufacturing research expertise in a long-term programme of research at scale.”

Professor Ashutosh Tiwari, Airbus/RAEng Research Chair in Digitisation for Manufacturing at the University of Sheffield, said: "At Sheffield, the Hub offers exciting opportunities for three-way research collaborations between the Electrical Machines and Drives Research Group in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the digital manufacturing researchers in the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, and Factory 2050 at the AMRC. The resulting digital manufacturing research will unlock design freedoms enabled by innovations in manufacturing technologies.”

The Hub will play its role in addressing the skills shortage in electrical machine design and their manufacture, with some 30 allied PhDs projects sponsored by a combination of the host universities and industrial partners dovetailing with the Hub’s seven-year research programme.

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