With the help of Advantage West Midlands funding, dedicated measurement facilities and expertise are being offered to overcome the problem of large capital investment traditionally required to purchase precision measurement equipment.
The Premium Automotive Research and Development (PARD) programme, in collaboration with Renishaw plc, a UK manufacturer of specialist measurement equipment, and LK, manufacturers of CNC co-ordinate measuring machines, are able to offer SMEs an alternative to outright equipment purchase.
The knowledge and expertise offered are summarised by Dr Mark Williams, team leader of the PARD Craftsmanship project. "Using a state-of-the-art LK HC90 CNC co-ordinate measuring machine and Renishaw probe technology, the Craftsmanship project team offers measurement solutions incorporating the writing of CMM programmes, gauge R&R studies, component measurement and web-based measurement reporting, including statistical process control."
Renishaw, founded in 1973, has developed a world wide reputation for supplying measurement solutions of the highest quality. Based in Gloucestershire, Renishaw manufactures and supplies a wide range of products associated with automated metrology, including CMM inspection probes, machine tool probes, high accuracy optical encoders, measurement and calibration products, and spectroscopy systems.
Collaborating with universities holds several advantages for Renishaw, as highlighted by Phil Williams, Renishaw’s Business Development Manager for Education and Training: "The facility at Warwick allows companies, large and small, to test technology before a commitment to purchase is made. This approach is invaluable for the success of UK manufacturing and must be supported and encouraged. Renishaw is pleased to be involved and associated with the work of the University."
According to Amrit Singh, the Craftsmanship project engineer overseeing the WMG measurement facility: "Renishaw’s continued involvement in the PARD programme enables us to offer the latest and most suitable measurement solutions to a broad range of West Midlands’ SMEs."
One of which has been more than happy to take advantage of the measurement service offered. Bespoke Engineering Ltd. is a small machining company based in Erdington, Birmingham, specialising in the design and development, prototyping and low volume production of machined components. Despite excellent machining capabilities, the prospect of investing tens of thousands of pounds in measurement equipment was thought to be out of reach for some time to come.
Says Bill Sisson, Managing Director of Bespoke Engineering: "Unfortunately we’ve had to turn away potentially lucrative contracts because we simply didn’t have the ability or resources to carry out the detailed measurement of the finished components that our customers required." This problem was restricting the growth of the business, but there didn’t seem to be an obvious solution. However, since teaming up with WMG and taking advantage of the measurement facilities and expertise being offered by the PARD Craftsmanship project, Bespoke Engineering has been able to offer its customers comprehensive measurement reports, validating the accuracy of its products, and thus opening the door to new and more lucrative contracts.
An example of this is a new roller throttle system for an automotive four cylinder engine for racing applications, which has been designed and developed for a customer by Bespoke Engineering. The Craftsmanship team helps Bespoke Engineering to carry out a comprehensive measurement programme for every batch of throttle bodies manufactured and, in addition to standard point measurements, utilises a specialist probe, supplied by Renishaw, to scan the bores of the throttle barrels. In addition to the project described above, the PARD Craftsmanship team is working with a number of other suppliers to the automotive industry in the West Midlands, providing solutions to a variety of measurement needs and collaborating not only with suppliers of specialist measurement equipment, but also with CMM manufacturers, gauge makers and providers of reporting software. The value added to these West Midlands-based organisations is a clear demonstration of how Advantage West Midlands funding, combined with the specialist knowledge and expertise within WMG, is benefiting the region’s automotive industry.