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Warwick Profiles - Digital Laboratory

First published in CommUnicate issue 324

Following its official opening by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 25 July, work has been ongoing on the Digital Lab. Zoe Howard, Head of Communications at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), gives CommUnicate an insight into this exciting new facility.

"Everyone on campus could not fail to be aware of the striking new building that’s recently opened next to WMG’s International Manufacturing Centre.

But, as yet, many of you may not have ventured inside. Part of the reason for writing this article is to say – come on in! The raison d’être of the Digital Lab is to bring people together: academics from across every part of this University and others, students, people from businesses both large and small and in fact the whole extended community that exists around the University of Warwick.

This collaborative approach means the Digital Lab will be able to focus its research in a number of areas, which include, but is by no means exhaustive, digital manufacturing, mass customisation and digital healthcare. In addition, several of WMG's Masters courses will be delivered in the Lab including e-Business Management and Digital Manufacturing Management.

Equipment has been moved into the Lab over the last few weeks so, by the time you come and see us, we might have something other than just a really beautiful building to show you.

But, what a building it is. The roof is covered in sedum that glows red and green and helps to insulate the building both against the summer heat and the winter cold. It also aids water run-off protecting the roof underneath.

In fact the building is packed with environmentally-friendly features that we hope will earn it top marks in a test of its green credentials by the Building Research Establishment. It uses mainly natural light via large rooflights on the north side that allow in lots of indirect, soft light. It is also an 'intelligent' building so windows (there is no air conditioning) open automatically if it gets too hot and close when it’s cold and at night and lights only work where there are people working.

University staff and students are welcome to visit at any time, but we are still in the process of moving in equipment and people so please bear with us. We hope to be able to hold an open day in spring 2009 when there will be much more to see.

In the meantime, here’s a rundown of the facilities we have and what’s available to book.

The following facilities are bookable through WMG (call ext. 22397)

  • Meeting rooms: 4, each with capacity for 8 people. Each has AV facilities; 46” HD LCD, stereo sound. Mobile video conference kit is also available.
  • Conference room: 36-seat capacity, with roof terrace and ante-room. It has twin 50” HD LCDs, Dolby/DTS 5.1 surround sound, Blu-ray/DVD player and AV input points around the conference table (to allow for multiple presenters). It also has video conference capability and an induction loop for the hard of hearing.
  • Auditorium: 100 seats; 6mx2m screen with twin HD projection and the ability to cater for up to 3 moving images at once; Dolby/DTS 5.1 surround sound system, Blu-Ray/DVD player, CD player, visualiser, built in video conferencing, 2x built in Pan Tilt and Zoom cameras, built in audience microphones to pick up questions, pick ups for up to 8 radio/fixed mics, and full facilities so you can record lectures/conferences.

The following facilities are not bookable but both staff and students may use them if they are working with Digital Lab teams:

Other key general purpose facilities:
  • Teaching area with 25 high performance workstations
  • CAD/CAM/PLM/Programming type activity room; presentation facilities as well; two large widescreen SMARTboards with HD projectors, blu-ray/DVD players, stereo sound. Room can be split.
  • Usability lab; this incorporates a reconfigurable area which can be viewed through 1-way mirror glass from an adjoining control room. There is one fixed PTZ camera and inputs for up to 6 more mobile cameras for close up views plus SMARTboard. Adjacent waiting area.

More specialist research led environments:

  • Sound lab: accurately able to replicate sound from environments ranging from hospital wards to town centres.
  • Visualisation lab: this will have the world’s first four panel HDR display, plus existing HDR display and other visualisation technology. Painted matt black (best environment for visual perception experiments). Outside this area will be a big auto-stereoscopic display plus various other pieces of visualisation kit.
  • E-security lab: a secure area for conducting experiments using small scale kit. Faraday cage to prevent wireless signals leaking out.
  • A Lab Car: complete electrical looms from Jaguar cars.
  • A clean manufacturing environment.

For further information on the Digital Lab, visit

Interior of the Digital Laboratory

Exterior of the Digital Laboratory