A number of new projects are boosting the UK’s ability to use industrial digitisation to compete globally. The kind of topics being investigated include capturing the impact that digital technologies may have on improving manufacturing performance, looking at integrating revision control in models that combine digital and physical attributes, modelling dynamic loading in manufacturing and engineering and developing cost-effective digital tools.

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The industrial partners include advanced UK manufacturing and engineering companies, so let’s take a look at some of these groundbreaking projects.

Revision Control and Twinning Digital-Physical Models in Prototyping

This may well have results that are relevant to vacuum forming technologies, and Autodesk are among the well-known partners on this project. The problem being addressed is that when physical-digital models are twinned, such as in a product development process, the lack of revision control leads to many issues.

These include lack of traceability, no record of decision-making, design duplication and inefficiency. The project aims to redefine the twinning and revision control processes for digital and physical models, aiming for seamless integration.

Cognitive Chemical Manufacturing

Industrial partners on this one include AstraZeneca. The idea is to further develop machine-based learning in chemical process design. The aim is to enable a combined physical-cyber system which will speed up the validation of new chemical processes. This validation process can be lengthy and time consuming, as the US FDA makes clear in its guidance: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/Guidances/UCM070336.pdf.

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Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring

This project may interest those SMEs who use vacuum forming, such as https://www.bridgewooduk.com/production-assembly/vacuum-forming, as a cost-effective way to prototype and develop new products. These companies are looking for ways to take advantage of digital techniques that don’t involve substantial investment in new equipment. The project will look at very low-cost technologies available in fields such as sensing, and AI, and seek ways to integrate these into smaller-scale manufacturing processes.

It’s good to see projects that are focusing on real-world problems and bringing in the abilities of AI and digital technologies to help solve them. All too often, SMEs struggle to find a technology that has been adapted to the scale they need and are therefore unable to take advantage of these technologies in the way that large companies can. These projects show that change is happening in this respect – good news for SMEs in manufacturing.