UK - New metals processing centre unveiled at Brunel

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The car makers and aerospace manufacturers in the UK, and worldwide, are set to benefit from revolutionary new metal processing and casting techniques with the opening of the Advanced Metal Processing Centre at Brunel University London.

The new centre provides a massive boost for manufacturers to work with Brunel on large-scale research and development activity, enabling innovations – such as novel structures for lightweight car parts – to make the leap from the lab to full-scale industrial trials.

The AMPC, which was officially opened at the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST) on 13 June, is funded by £15 million from the UK government, providing the equipment and infrastructure to attract industrial match funding through people and resources from partners such as Constellium and Jaguar Land Rover. This will help to develop the future generation of engineers, designers, scientists and materials specialists, and to accelerate automotive lightweighting through the deployment of world-leading, high-performance aluminium alloys and innovative technologies.

The AMPC’s 1,500 square metres of working space, in a bespoke building on Brunel's campus in Uxbridge, is the second phase of BCAST's scale-up facility, following on from 2016's launch of the Advanced Metal Casting Centre (AMCC).

The tour of the new equipment at the AMPC

Professor Zhongyun Fan, Director of BCAST, said: "The AMPC is a hugely important investment for both BCAST and for our current and future research partners.

"BCAST's long-term aim is to reduce the amount of new metal mined from the ground to a minimum. So it is essential that we continue to be able to find even better ways of creating high-quality components and systems from metals that have already been used at least once."

"The additional world-class metals processing capabilities we will be unveiling will ensure that BCAST can help power innovations for manufacturers in the UK and worldwide."

The industrial and pilot-scale metal processing equipment enables:

• processing and fabrication of extruded metals, such as novel bending processes, machining and advanced joining techniques
• further casting processes, such as gravity die casting and sand casting, adding to those available in the AMCC
• supporting materials characterisation, such as for testing strength and fatigue, and including 3D x-ray tomography.

A key feature of the AMPC and AMCC is that BCAST’s researchers and seconded engineers from its partners will work side by side.

At the same event, Constellium announced the expansion of its research and development capability at Brunel. After establishing a University Technology Centre in 2016, Constellium is dedicating an R&D Centre within the campus to transition technology from the laboratory to its production facilities around the world.

Paul Warton, President of Constellium’s Automotive Structures and Industry business unit, commented: “The automotive industry is advancing technology at an unprecedented pace, and the AMPC is a tremendous resource for automakers, allowing rapid prototyping with state-of-the art forming and joining techniques to help shape lightweight, high-strength components for the next generation of vehicles.

“Constellium is thrilled to be expanding its presence at Brunel University London and to be at the forefront of development for aluminium automotive structural components.”

Warton spoke warmly about the international projects Constellium had already delivered stemming from work with BCAST, including one for Tesla: “The Model 3 is supplied with the front and rear crash management systems from Constellium that we developed with ultra-high-strength alloys here in Brunel.”

Professor Zhongyun Fan, Director of BCAST; Paul Warton, President of Constellium’s Automotive Structures and Industry business unit; Andrew Barlow, Evoque Programme Manager at Jaguar Land Rover

Other speakers at the event, chaired by Dr Mark White, former Jaguar Land Rover Technical Specialist on Light Weight Vehicle Structures, included Lawrence Davies, Chief Adviser to the Automotive Team at the Department for International Trade; Alice Frost, Head of Knowledge Exchange at Research England; Andrew Barlow, Evoque Programme Manager at Jaguar Land Rover; and Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, Brunel’s Vice-Chancellor and President.

“The AMPC represents the next major step in establishing a light metals research park in the south-east corner of our campus,” said Prof Buckingham, “and this cluster of facilities has already created an unrivalled research zone in Europe of the type of research we're doing.”

Prof Buckingham also read out a message from Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip, who spoke of his pride in having such research and facilities in his constituency: “This work presents the chance to join with key partners, including Jaguar Land Rover and Constellium, to make a major contribution to rebalancing the UK economy from here in Uxbridge.”

BCAST is ready to collaborate with new partners, whether you're a single academic researcher, a research group or an industrial company, either large or small. To get in touch, or to find out more, visit our BCAST pages.