Thursday, March 7, 2013

News: £22m Proving Factory launched in Rotherham


Part of Tata Steel's Brinsworth site in Rotherham will be given a new lease of life at the heart of developing new manufacturing techniques for low-carbon vehicles.

The Proving Factory, a £22m government-backed manufacturing initiative will take low-carbon vehicle technologies designed by small high-tech British companies and university research departments and prove their viability in production to increase their chances of being adopted by major motor manufacturers.

The Proving Factory will consist of two facilities: component manufacturing at the Tata Steel site at Brinsworth, and an assembly facility in the West Midlands, providing employment and regeneration.

Henrik Adam, chief commercial officer for Tata Steel, said: "This initiative will bring together some of the most remarkable future automotive technologies, taking them from workbench prototypes to viable components and bridging the gap between great innovation and great commercial products.

"This project will not only benefit the small companies which have developed these technologies, but allow Tata Steel to provide its expertise in speciality steels and manufacturing, as well as access to vital supply chains. Our Brinsworth site will be hosting one of the two new facilities and several of our staff will also be working for the Proving Factory full-time.

"Ultimately, this will allow Tata Steel to further develop markets and prove technologies for other sectors such as aerospace and renewable energy."

Details were recently announced at a launch event attended by business secretary Vince Cable MP.

Led by industry experts, Productiv Limited, working closely with Tata Steel and other advanced manufacturers and technology developers, the project centres on technologies with the "potential to transform the vehicles of tomorrow."

Funded under the Government's Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative, it aims to bridge the gap (or "Valley of Death") between small enterprises developing leading edge low carbon technology and large vehicle manufacturers.

Those supporting The Proving Factory project include Jaguar Land Rover as a major UK vehicle manufacturer, Schaeffler and Unipart, offering their supply chain and process expertise, and the Midlands Assembly Network, which is offering component process and supply.

The innovative automotive technologies and components that the project will industrialise prior to manufacture will come from six technology developers including: Bladon Jets, Drive Systems Design, Flybrid, Libralato and Torotrak.

The technologies involved all offer novel solutions, but novel solutions need low volume production to prove themselves to the market – traditionally, this means higher cost prototype routes. The new initiative will allow carmakers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to introduce and validate new technologies at much lower volumes (up to 20,000 units compared to the usual 200,000) but still at an affordable price.

Torotrak's "V-Charge", a variable drive supercharger for highly supercharged downsized engines, is one such technology. It allows the downsized engines to retain the driving feel, urgency and enjoyment of a larger engine but with much reduced emissions.

It is envisaged that The Proving Factory will create over 250 direct new jobs and around 1,000 more in the manufacturing and engineering supply chain.

Tata Steel has further sites in Rotherham. The Indian-owned steelmaker recently posted a loss for its European operation of £51.2m for the third quarter of 2012/13, down from an £5.2m loss the previous quarter but up from a £93.2m loss in the same quarter last year. Sliding demand was a key problem for European steelmakers.

Tata Steel website

Images: Torotrak


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