Even the largest companies are unable to have all the technology they may need within their own organisation. For SMEs access to expensive technology often seems an even more unobtainable luxury. However Midlands SMEs are increasingly aware of the wealth of free technology they can access in our region’s Universities thanks to investment by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and the European Regional Development Fund. One such £5 million lab in WMG at the University of Warwick has already helped engineers build a super bike that has finished 2nd in the first ever Moto2 race in Qatar, and helped another company sell high tech business class airplane seats.
Part funded by AWM and the ERDF, the £5 million Premium Vehicle Customer Interface Technologies (PVCIT) Centre brings together: high resolution laser scanners, x-ray technology in a precision CT scanner, and the UK’s highest resolution 3D “Power Wall”. WMG researcher Dr Mark Williams said:
“West Midlands companies are already queuing up for free access to this technology which allows them to do everything from searching for microscopic defects deep inside welded components to laser scanning whole products as big as a car or van to create 3D models accurate to 5 thousands of a millimetre which they can then display and manipulate on the Centre’s 3D “Power Wall”.”
The WMG researchers were able to use this technology to help Fabrication Techniques Racing (FTR) and their partners Stable Solution Ltd based in Wellesbourne in Warwickshire to laser scan a prototype engine for their racing bike.
“This technology allowed us to develop a Digital Prototype, shortened our development time by 2 months and helped the bike be ready in time to finish in second place in the first ever Moto2 race in Qatar.”
The facility has also helped Coventry based Envisage Group, which has developed an advanced concept seat for business class airplane passengers. They showed the physical model of their seat at an expo show in Hamburg but to really get their message across they needed some way to show customers exactly how their new seat would appear within the most modern planes.
They turned to WMG’s PVCIT Centre, who helped them to create exact 3D virtual reality visualisations of how their innovative seat would appear within a plane, even allowing potential customers to walk on board the plane and around the seating. This helped Envisage generate interest in their seats from significant plane manufacturers and operators.
Ronan Farrell, head of Design and Marketing at Envisage said:
“Without WMG’s high resolution digital displays and 3D interactivity we would never have been able to fully communicate the design to our potential customers. To actually be able to put ourselves inside the design is something we have never experienced before and we are very pleased to be able to have access to this technology.”