Plans are being drawn up to build one of the most advanced factories in the world in South Yorkshire.
The landmark glass-walled “reconfigurable factory,” dubbed Factory 2050, is the brainchild of Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
The site for the multimillion pound factory has yet to be named, but, if all goes according to plan, work on the hi-tech facility, designed by Sheffield architects Bond Bryan, could start in March and be completed by the middle of 2015.
The seed for the factory were sown by a study which the AMRC carried out with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as part of the Government’s Foresight Programme
The study found that the factories of the future will be more varied than today and would include reconfigurable units integrated with the changing requirements of supply chain partners.
AMRC research director, Prof Keith Ridgway says the new reconfigurable factory has been designed so that individual machines can be rapidly installed, removed and relocated and production lines switched about.
The idea is that a factory that is making aerospace components one day could be producing automotive parts on another day and mass produced “personalised” components the week after that.
The decision to give the circular factory glass walls follows the lead of German car manufacturer VW, which builds its Phaeton luxury saloon in a glass-walled factory in Dresden, and is intended to answer another issue raised by the Foresight study.
The study highlighted problems with recruiting the manufacturing leaders of the future and the hope is that the glass walled reconfigurable factory will become a tourist attraction that will enthuse the brightest and the best to become engineers.
When it comes to working on hush hush projects or holding private discussions, the Factory 2050’s offices will have walls of smart or switchable glazing.
The glazing is made up of two layers of glass with a material sandwiched between them that becomes opaque when a voltage is applied.