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University launches £4.8m materials partnership

11 Jul 2017

Five-year multidisciplinary project to provide enabling science to help UK industry achieve step-change in performance

LightForm is a 5 year multidisciplinary project with £4.8m (£5.9 FEC) core support from the EPSRC programme grant scheme, led by the University with partners at Cambridge and Imperial College, London.

Our vision is to provide the enabling science that will allow UK industry to achieve a step-change in the performance of the next generation of wrought, light-alloy, formed components, and innovate in the move to a more sustainable, circular, economy and digital integration in manufacturing.

We will achieve this by embedding precision materials engineering into advanced forming and forging processes. By looking at manufacturing and materials engineering fully holistically, we will seek to take advantage of win-win synergies where you can simultaneously form a shape and dynamically engineer properties. This will allow us to overcome the current conflict between the demand for higher performance materials and the negative effect this has on reducing manufacturability and increasing costs.

At the heart of our approach will be the development of more accurate simulations, supported by new state of the art 3D multiscale and time resolved in-situ analysis methods.

This will allow us to accurately predict shape, microstructure, and properties in dynamically evolving complex materials systems.

The research will thus allow us to simultaneously engineer shape and properties, with more precision than currently possible, in more difficult materials, extended performance, and flexibly tailor thickness and properties in components. More precise digital simulation will also reduce product development cycles and costs.

With over 80% of all metallic components made from wrought, formed materials - the project will provide the critical science base required to allow UK industry to innovate in high value-added manufacturing.

The transport manufacturing sector is vital to the UK economy, being worth over £20bln to GDP, in value added, exporting 80% of its output, and employs nearly 500,000 skilled workers.

LightForm already has over 20 collaborating companies and our strong engagement with industry will provide a direct route for technology transfer and impact.

We also aim to address the severe skills shortage in the UK by training PhD students in a multidisciplinary environment across the frontiers of materials and manufacturing.