Tuesday, January 19, 2016

News: AMP engineers working on complex composites

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Engineering experts from across the Sheffield city region are working together to develop a revolutionary system to cut transport emissions and costs while boosting reliability and durability.

Tinsley Bridge, the Sheffield-based SME that is one of the world's leading suppliers of anti-roll bars, has joined forces with Performance Engineered Solutions (PES) and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), both of which are based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

PES Ltd was established based on the F1 concept of driving innovation in multiple sectors. It specialises in enhancing the performance of components, products and systems by delivering integrated engineering thinking alongside innovative design, materials, manufacturing and testing technologies.

The AMRC focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. It is a partnership between industry and academia, which has become a model for research centres worldwide.

The trio has launched a project, co-funded by the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK, to develop unique, high performance, metal composite hybrid anti-roll bars for trucks and trains.

The bars are safety critical suspension components that are currently made from metal and the project aims to significantly reduce their weight by developing a composite alternative with metal end pieces.

Reducing weight will cut fuel costs and emissions. Using composites could also mean the bars will never need replacing – unlike their metal counterparts – and will increase the dynamic loads the bars can cope with.

One of the major challenges will be achieving a sufficiently strong bond between the metal and composite and researchers will be investigating a number of innovative solutions.

Tinsley Bridge is already the fourth largest supplier of anti-roll bars to global OEM truck manufacturers and a key development partner for stabiliser and torsion bars to vehicle manufacturers.

Successful development of metal composite hybrid bars through innovation and research would create an advanced version of the product to counter the threat of low cost foreign competition and open up new opportunities.

Mike Maddock, managing director at PES (pictured, far left), said: "There could be multiple spin-offs, including opportunities in the aerospace sector, if the work we are doing comes to fruition.

"This project also highlights the value of strong collaboration to drive innovation which delivers technical advances, enabling UK PLC to take the lead in multiple sectors. Bringing together the knowledge and expertise of SMEs like Tinsley Bridge and PES, working in partnership with the AMRC raises the profile of local businesses and the region in the global market place as an important part of the Northern Powerhouse."

A state-of-the-art facility allows the AMRC Composite Centre to provide a full range of design, manufacturing, assembly and structural testing services for advanced composite materials.

Matt Smith, from the AMRC Composite Centre, said: "Although composite materials are used in a range of industrial applications, they have not been developed as a hybrid component to meet the challenges of heavy vehicle stabiliser and torsion bars.

"The strong technical and environmental benefits, increased durability, improved fuel efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions means we have the potential to develop a leading place for the UK with a disruptive technology that has global implications."

PES and the AMRC have previously worked together on a project to research the potential alternatives to composite technologies currently in use such as carbon fibre and epoxy resin systems. The technology has the potential to revolutionise the production of low volume specialist components for high performance vehicles.

PES website
AMRC website

Images: AMRC

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