Sheffield is to become a key centre for developing processes to make components that need little or no machining or finishing before going into service.
The £10 million Mercury Centre project is the brainchild of scientists at Sheffield University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and has attracted £5 million from the European Regional Development Fund.
Plans for the Mercury Centre were drawn up following talks with advanced manufacturing companies in the region about their future needs.
The Centre has already acquired a range of equipment designed to give it cutting edge capabilities in a range of advanced manufacturing technologies, including 3D printing, functional coatings and surface treatment.
It also has a range of modelling, design and simulation capabilities that allows complex components to be created directly from designs produced on computers. Near net shape manufacturing – as the process is called – takes less time, involves fewer steps, costs less and has less of an environmental impact, while offering improved quality and greater freedom for designers.
However, there will need to be substantial development of new process routes and controls before new products and applications can be created - and that is where the Mercury Centre comes in.
“We are helping companies to adopt these technologies by offering them access to our research facilities and the opportunity to explore the business benefits,” said Mercury Centre director Dr Iain Todd.
The University says businesses can work with the Centre in a variety of ways, ranging from short-term consultancies, to knowledge transfer partnerships, PhD studentships and large scale multi-partner projects.