Manufacturing and Robotics

Our research seeks to increase resource efficiency, flexibility and competitiveness of UK manufacturing through the development of integrated system modelling, simulation and optimization tools, advanced process monitoring & automation, reconfigurable systems and smart multifunctional materials. We are also developing enabling technologies for fully autonomous cooperative robots.

Case Study:

Right-First-Time Friction Stir Welding (FSW) of Materials

Image: Friction Stir Welding

In 1996, the late Professor Mike Sellars (MSE) and Professor Derek Linkens (ACSE) had the vision of allying Systems Engineering principles and Metallurgical Science to realise what they called then "right-first-time" production; a framework that allows prediction of materials properties using sophisticated models which would then be exploited to produce materials to specifications.

In 2008, using this concept, Professor Mahdi Mahfouf and Dr George Panoutsos (ACSE) teamed up with Engineers from TWI Ltd (the inventors of FSW process) in order to investigate the FSW process with the aim of realising, for the first time, Right First-Time FSW of Aluminium alloys.

The result is a new computer system for FSW. The new system allows to set-up the design specifications in terms of tensile strength, elongation and microstructure as this was not previously possible. TWI Ltd use the system for several industrial clients in the aerospace manufacturing sector including Embraer, BAE-Systems, and Boeing, as well as in popular consumer products such as the Apple iMac and Bang & Olufsen speakers. The use of this technology reduces the required experimental trials, providing a materials and cost savings of 25% and a minimum time-saving of 50%.