University of Sheffield launches new research hub to put the UK at the forefront of a new electrical revolution

13 June 2019

    The University of Sheffield hosted leading figures from academia and industry today (Wednesday 12 June 2019) at the official launch of its new research hub, which aims to put UK manufacturing at the forefront of the electrification revolution in aerospace, energy, high value automotive and premium consumer sectors.

    The £28 million Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Future Electrical Machines Manufacturing Hub is the first of its kind to bring together leading research expertise in electrical machines and manufacturing. Researchers will work closely with industry to address key manufacturing challenges in the production of high integrity and high value electrical machines.

    Held at Factory 2050, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), the launch event was attended by 120 people from academia and industry. This included Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor, at the University of Sheffield together with leading academics and industry figures from Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Siemens-Gamesa, GKN Aerospace and funding partners.

    Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, speaking at the launch of the new research hub.

    Society is 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, aircraft 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, and how to overcome these economically while ensuring reliability and quality.

    The attendees at today’s event heard presentations from the Future Machines Manufacturing Hub industrial and academic partners on the opportunities and challenges in electrical machine manufacturing and the research activities proposed to address and overcome these challenges. They also participated in networking sessions and attended demonstrations of new industrial digital technologies within the advanced manufacturing facilities of the AMRC’s Factory 2050.

    The initial research plans within the hub cover a number of topics, including: the use of the latest manufacturing processes to enable the lightweighting of electrical machines, understanding and demonstrating how digital tools can support skill intensive manual manufacturing tasks and exploring how robotic systems can be applied to tasks such as the winding of coils in electrical machines.

    Professor Geraint Jewell, Director of the EPSRC Future Electrical Machines Manufacturing Hub, said: “The University of Sheffield has recently been named the number one university in the UK for income and investment in engineering research which positions us as a global leader. This new hub exemplifies this in action - we are bringing together world-leading researchers with industry to deliver real impact in the manufacture of electrical machines.

    “The hub will not only address the key manufacturing challenges mentioned but also assist UK manufacturing to capture significant value in the supply chain, improve productivity and deliver the cleaner growth at the heart of the UK’s industrial strategy.”

    Leading figures from academia and industry attended the hub's launch event.

    Ben Morgan, Head of Integrated Manufacturing at AMRC, said: “Factory 2050 is at the forefront of research into digital assembly and flexible manufacturing. We are developing and delivering new technologies for partners across aerospace, automotive and construction. We have an opportunity with the EPSRC Hub to apply novel digital approaches to the manufacture of electrical machines and help to secure future production in the UK across high value markets.”

    Researchers in the new hub will work closely with industry to address key manufacturing challenges in the production of high integrity and high value electrical machines.

    Dr Arwyn Thomas, Head of Generator Design at Siemens-Gamesa, said: “The new hub is an exciting development in the partnership between Siemens-Gamesa and the University of Sheffield. Our partnership with Sheffield supports the development of new technologies including the latest generation of generators for offshore wind turbines. As the generators grow in size they present new manufacturing challenges and working with the hub will be essential to addressing these.”

    Simon Taylor, Chief Engineer for Hybrid and Electric Aircraft at GKN Aerospace, said: “For future hybrid and electric aircraft, GKN are exploring the potential for electrical propulsion systems in order to solve the environmental challenges due to the growth in air travel. This work expands upon our capabilities on electrical drivetrains, systems integration, propulsion and structures to invest in the future of sustainable aviation.  Working in partnership with UK research activities such as the hub will be an essential part of development for those organisations which will be manufacturing high integrity and high value electrical machines as used in aerospace.”

    The new hub will work closely with industry to address key manufacturing challenges in the production of high integrity and high value electrical machines.

    Ruaraidh McDonald-Walker, Chief Engineer for Hybrid and Electric Drives at McLaren Applied Technologies, said: “McLaren Applied Technologies have been supplying high-performance components into motorsport and automotive for over three decades.

    “In particular, developing technologies for Formula 1 and Formula E has given us the unique opportunity to work with the latest technologies, long before these technologies are mature enough for adoption into even niche automotive applications. As we continue to develop our technologies, including electric motors, engaging with the hub will be essential to understand optimum designs and the new manufacturing processes which enable these.”

    The £28m investment is underpinned by a £10m award from the EPSRC and funding from industrial partners including Rolls Royce, Airbus, Siemens Gamesa, GKN Aerospace, McLaren and Dyson and the University partners. The team, led by the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and AMRC, will work with academics at Newcastle University and the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC).

    The University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities for energy-related research. Its researchers, who work across a range of disciplines from science and engineering to the arts, humanities and social sciences, are finding low carbon solutions to the world’s biggest energy challenges. The University of Sheffield recently launched its flagship Energy Institute to bring together and share its vast energy research across fields including renewable, nuclear, conventional energy generation, energy storage, energy use and carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology.

    For more information on the Hub, visit: http://electricalmachineshub.ac.uk/

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