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Smarter, greener, cleaner steel: £35 million boost for research to transform UK steel industry

SteelsA smart, green and clean steel industry will come a giant step closer thanks to a new £35 million research network, announced today, which will see steelmakers and University experts work together on a seven-year research programme to transform the UK steel sector.

The network, called SUSTAIN, is to transform the whole steel supply chain, making it cleaner, greener and smarter, and more responsive to the fast-changing needs of customers. Its work will be concentrated on two areas:

· Zero waste iron and steelmaking, with the aim of making the industry carbon-neutral by 2040: Steel is already the world’s most recycled material, but the network will investigate new ways of making the industry’s processes and products even greener, such as harvesting untapped energy sources, capturing carbon emissions and re-processing societal and industrial waste streams.

· Smart steel processing: like any 21st century industry, steelmaking involves masses of data. SUSTAIN will develop new ways of acquiring and using this data to improve the steels produced as well as in new metallurgical processes, which can deliver bespoke high tech products.

Steel is the most widely-used structural material in the world. If a product isn’t made of steel it’s made using steel. Steel is at the heart of UK manufacturing sectors such as the car industry, construction, packaging and defence. It is an indispensable component of the UK’s future national infrastructure such as transport, communications and energy, and for high-tech 21st century industries, from energy-positive buildings to wind turbines and electric vehicles.

The work of SUSTAIN is projected to:

- Double UK steel manufacturers’ gross value added (GVA) by 2030

- Boost jobs in the industry to 35,000

- Increase productivity by 15%

SUSTAIN involves more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry: companies, trade bodies, research organisations and academic experts including WMG, University of Warwick. The network is being supported by £12.5M investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, as one of their Future Manufacturing Research Hubs, along with significant investment from the steel companies within the UK.

The announcement is a landmark as it is the first time that UK steel producers and representatives from the manufacturing sector have lined up behind a co-ordinated programme of research. It is also the largest ever single investment in steel research by a UK research council.

The plan is that SUSTAIN will be a seed from which much wider research and innovation will grow, drawing on expertise across UK academia and beyond.

Professor Claire Davis, from WMG, University of Warwick comments: “The UK has a rich tradition of research excellence and innovation in steel metallurgy. SUSTAIN will bring together leading research groups in this area, as well as introducing new expertise in big data and supply chain innovation, to work collaboratively with the UK industry.

The network will be able to tackle the large issues facing the steel industry, particularly in becoming low energy, carbon neutral, dynamic and responsive to customer needs. It is an exciting time to be working on steel as there are opportunities to contribute to making the planet a greener place.”

Dr Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, steel expert at Swansea University and SUSTAIN’s deputy director, said: “This news is a massive vote of confidence in the steel industry. It will support the industry’s vision for a responsible, innovative and creative future. We are already on the road to clean, green and smart steelmaking, but this is another giant step forward.

Research and innovation are the bedrock of a modern steel industry. This network represents almost the whole UK steel sector, with researchers and companies working together on an unprecedented scale. Here in Swansea we’re proud to lead it.”

Gareth Stace, UK Steel Director General, said: "This new boost of innovation funding into the sector is a vital piece of the puzzle to help deliver our vision of a cutting-edge, vibrant, and sustainable steel industry in the UK.

The future success of our sector rests on our ability to remain at the forefront of product and process innovation, delivering the new steel products demanded by our customers and society. This new hub will enable us to do just that.”


The virtual factory – boost for steel innovation with £7 million to speed up new alloy development

Steel workerA new method of testing alloys - Rapid Alloy Prototyping, is 100 times faster than current methods, allowing new products to reach the market more quickly, thanks to £7 million of funding announced today for a new “virtual factory” designed by the Prosperity Partnership, including WMG at the University of Warwick.

This Prosperity Partnership – led by Swansea University and involving WMG at the University of Warwick, will implement a Rapid Alloy Prototyping (RAP) process, thanks to £7 million of funding announced today from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Rapid Alloy Prototyping effectively means that much of the testing can be carried out in research labs and imaging suites - a virtual factory – rather than in an actual steel plant.


WMG part of a £37m project to develop lightweight vehicles

A new research project, Tucana, will focus on lighweighting technology, delivering stiffer and lighter vehicle structures with the help of experts from WMG, at the UniversityLightweighting technology of Warwick.

The research will develop world-leading cost effective, scalable carbon fibre composite solutions, with the view to boosting the performance of electric vehicles. The CO2 benefit of the project between 2023-2032, will be 4.5 million tonnes.

WMG will receive £4m, of the £18.7m government funding through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), to drive the development of innovative lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures, building on the UK’s leading-edge capability in this area.

Project Tucana will allow the true environmental credentials of electric vehicles to be realised by enabling wider adoption. Tucana will deliver this step-change by addressing structural performance at a design, material and volume manufacturing-level which is currently unmet across the industry.


Car component quality testing technology helps hip surgeons ensure prostheses bind to bones

Hip surgeons are making significant advances in designing hip replacement components using additive manufacturing (3D printing) but have been struggling to devise easy methods of testing the designs they have created without using destructive testing techniques. Now researchers in WMG at the University of Warwick have devised a way of examining and ensuring the quality of those designs without destructive testing using scanning techniques normally used to examine new component designs for high-end automotive manufacturing.Professor Mark Williams

Successful surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint (arthroplasty) requires integration of the prosthetic implant with the bone to replace the damaged joint. Surgeons therefore seek to use Bone-mimetic biomaterials for implants as their mechanical properties and porous structure can be designed to allow bone ingrowth and help fix the implant.


WMG Professor chairs Royal Academy of Engineering event

Professor Kerry KirwanProfessor Kerry Kirwan is looking forward to taking part in the fifth Royal Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers of Engineering for Development symposium, which takes place from 29th April to 2nd May.

The three-day event takes place at the Academy's home, Prince Philip House, in London, UK. Professor Kirwan, who leads our sustainable materials and manufacturing team, will be chairing a session on Frontiers of Engineering for Development: The Circular Economy.

The symposium is part of a series of international, interdisciplinary workshops that aim to facilitate network building, encourage collaborative work and promote international development and cross-disciplinary thinking among the future leaders of engineering from the UK and around the world.

More information on the symposium can be found here.

Fri 27 Apr 2018, 14:07 | Tags: Materials and Manufacturing Kerry Kirwan

Award-winning WMG research makes Ford cars lighter and more efficient

Ford cars could be more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, thanks to a new lightweight rear suspension component, designed by the award-winning Innovate UK project Composite Lightweight Automotive Suspension System (CLASS), involving WMG at the University of Warwick.

Led by Ford Motor Company, in partnership with WMG, Gestamp Chassis and GRM, the CLASS project consortium developed a new tieblade-knuckle for a Ford Class C vehicle, a key element for the car’s rear suspension.

Led by Ford Motor Company, in partnership with WMG

An optimised design and manufacturing process developed by WMG enabled the researchers to replace the car’s current multiple-piece fabricated steel component with a single moulding - making a weight saving in excess of 4.5kg per vehicle, a 35% saving on the current part.

This will result in CO2 savings over the lifetime of the vehicle, and the technology is appropriate for much wider vehicle chassis and body applications.

In March 2018, the CLASS project won a JEC Innovation Award, in the Automotive Innovation category.

Researchers at WMG carried out materials selection by moulding test plaques and measuring material performance characteristics. This was fed into the design of the part, carried out by Gestamp, before optimisation of the design, carried out by GRM.


Professor Tony McNally selected as overseas expert

Professor Tony McNallyWe are proud to announce that Professor Tony McNally has been selected by China’s Ministry of Education and State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs under Plan 111 as a Foreign Expert to advise in the manufacture and characterisation of functional composite materials.

China’s Plan 111 is jointly organised by the Ministry of Education and State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, P.R. China. It aims to gather groups of first-class minds from around the world to work with leading Chinese researchers on the creation of 100 dedicated innovation centres.

Over the next 5 years Professor McNally will be working in collaboration with the International Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing proposed by the School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT).


Professor Tony McNally announced as Editor-in-Chief of new Functional Composite Materials journal

Professor Tony McNallyProfessor Tony McNally, who heads up Nanocomposites research at WMG has been announced as the first Editor-in-Chief of the newly formed journal, Functional Composite Materials.

The Associate Editors and the Editorial Board, led by Professor McNally, include the leading academics in the field from around the world. The journal will consider contributions on all types of composite materials where composite functionality can be clearly demonstrated.

Functional Composite Materials is published by SpringerNature. The publisher producers a number of key research journals and books globally on science, technology, medicine, humanities and social sciences.


Supporting the steel industry at WMG

From the left, Professor Claire Davis (WMG), Alicia Law (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Nick Abell (CWLEP) and Jonathan Browning (CWLEP)Businesses of all sizes in Coventry and Warwickshire can take advantage of a state-of-the-art facility to develop the next generation of lightweight steel products.

WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick has created a cutting-edge research, design and skills infrastructure zone in its Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Centre.

Its work is focused on supporting the development of new lightweight steel products as well as building an environment to develop the next generation of experts in this specialist field and can be accessed by SMEs as well as global businesses.

The three-year project has received £1 million of funding from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) to buy key R&D equipment and a further £1 million from WMG which includes industry funding.


Neutron beam from nuclear reactor used to produce safer cars

A partnership led by WMG at the University of Warwick, with the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), Tata Steel, and the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) is using a stream of neutrons from ILL’s nuclear reactor in a new project to examine the safety critical welds in cars made with boron steel.

Press-hardened boron steel is an ultra high-strength steel used across a variety of industries, with a particularly important application in the automotive industry. A large proportion of car manufacturers use boron steel for structural components and anti-intrusion systems in automobiles, as it provides high strength and weight-saving potential, allowing for stronger yet lighter cars, with increased passenger safety.

In the automotive industry, a major joining method for boron steel components is “resistance spot welding”, with several thousand welds being made on a single car. Spot welding exposes the boron steel sheet directly underneath the electrodes” to very high temperatures, causing the metal to exceed melting temperature and then rapidly solidify upon cooling. This results in a heat-affected zone, where surrounding material contracts and its microstructures are altered.


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