AFRC: World class research centre set for expansion

The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), a world-class research base for forming and forging techniques, is set to double in size following a multi-million investment.

Established in 2009, the AFRC is a key partner in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the UK’s first Catapult centre, and aims to drive innovation and improved competitiveness across a broad range of industrial sectors including aerospace, automotive, energy and marine.

Supported by the HVM Catapult and Scottish Enterprise, the AFRC is undergoing a significant expansion which will see the facility more than double in size to 5400m2 by the end of 2013. This expansion will enable the AFRC to further develop its capabilities through the installation of new cutting-edge forming and forging equipment, and will see staffing levels increase from 50 to more than 125 over the next five years.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University, said: “The AFRC is a tremendous example of what can be achieved through active academic/industrial collaboration through which world-class research is translated to high value applications. The extension of the facility and increased staffing levels will ensure the centre remains at the forefront of international engineering technology.

“To date, the AFRC’s work has focused largely on the needs of the aerospace sector – the expansion now allows us to use the world-class expertise, knowledge and facilities to support the renewables, oil and gas, nuclear, marine and automotive sectors.

“While our vision for the AFRC to be a world leading forming and forging facility that helps companies improve global competitiveness is ambitious, I am extremely confident that, with the support and engagement of our private and public sector partners, we will make this a reality within the next five years.”

The building extension of approximately 2,800m2 to the south of the current building in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, will more than double the size of the AFRC, creating a range of workshops, laboratories, and office space.

This will allow the AFRC to procure a range of new research, test and demonstration equipment specifically designed to address the needs of a broader range of industrial sectors, which in turn will enable the Centre to lead in a wider range of manufacturing research addressing industry challenges.

Support will continue for UK leading-edge suppliers and enable the resulting innovation and productivity gains to be driven through the UK’s manufacturing supply chains, contributing to the UK Government’s key objective of enhancing the UK’s economic performance.

Stephen Burgess, the AFRC Chairman and Manufacturing Process and Technology Executive, Rolls-Royce said: “Successful delivery of this plan will make the AFRC both a world class forging and forming facility, and a major component in the UK and Scotland’s innovation system. This will create a critical mass of research and innovation focusing on specific technologies where there is a potentially large global market and a significant UK capability.”

Lena Wilson, chief executive, Scottish Enterprise said: “Investment in research and development is critical to the growth potential of our economy. Already the AFRC has proven to be a highly successful in attracting major global players in the field of advanced forming and forging technologies and this second phase will allow us to build on that success by extending not only the size of the facility, but the range of specialised equipment so that more of Scotland’s globally competitive technology sectors can benefit from this investment.”

The productivity of the manufacturing sector is vital to the process of economic growth and the UK Government has set an extremely challenging target of raising the level of UK GDP coming from manufacturing from the current 12% to 25% by 2040.

To support this process, Innovate UK’s Catapult Initiative was established to accelerate the commercialisation and exploitation of new and emerging technologies through greater collaboration between the UK’s world class Research Centres and industry.

The AFRC’s partnership in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult will allow the Centre to play a leading role in helping realise a significant growth in the productivity and competitiveness of the UK’s and Scotland’s high value manufacturing sectors.

The current AFRC members range from major multi-nationals such as Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Timet, Barnes Aerospace and Aubert & Duval, through to specialist suppliers such as EKES and Fanuc. This wide range of supporting industry enables the AFRC to engage effectively with multi-scale problems in which researchers need to relate macro process parameters (such as tool geometry and loading rates) with micro-characteristics of the form material (such as grain size and structure).

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