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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P020755/1
Title: Rapid Product Development through Process Innovation
Principal Investigator: Davis, Professor C
Other Investigators:
Thomas, Professor PA Li, Professor Z Srirangam Venkata, Dr P
Seetharaman, Professor S Shollock, Professor B Gibbons, Professor GJ
Greenwood, Professor D Auinger, Dr M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Tata Steel Limited
Department: WMG
Organisation: University of Warwick
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 20 March 2017 Ends: 19 March 2022 Value (£): 900,955
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Characterisation
Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Dec 2016 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interviews Dec 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Steel is the most used material in the world by value, one of the most recyclable materials and the only metal produced and consumed in volume in the UK. It is a foundation industry underpinning the economy, e.g. Tata Steel provides the most material for Nissan Leaf's lightweight body and in construction the UK is set to lead the growth rate at 2.8% (cf. EU average of 1.8%). However, the UK steel industry currently faces high energy and raw materials costs with some inefficient processes that are unable to produce advanced products. A strong research base is essential to support the UK steel industry, users of steel and steel-hybrid materials and to develop the skilled workforce needed to drive innovation. There is strong industrial need from the UK transportation and yellow goods industry for material innovation leading to lightweighting, superior performance and establishment of a UK supply chain for auto-bodies, transmissions, battery casings etc; and from the UK construction sector where half of construction demand will be in the residential sector by 2030. There is massive potential for novel steel-based solutions such as hybrid materials, which require detailed understanding and control of the steel surface properties during processing.

To reduce lead-times for alloy innovation, and to ensure new alloys can be processed, rapid alloy design and high-throughput processing is required. Whilst combinatorial approaches for identifying an alloy for desired properties are available, the ability to rapidly simulate all the transient process steps critical for actual alloy manufacturing and its integration into structures and devices does not exist. Therefore a suite of new equipment is proposed that will identify and accelerate inventions for synthesizing alloys encompassing rapid processing, characterisation and modelling. The equipment will comprise a high throughput 3D ingot printer, drop furnace to assess liquid-environment reactions for solidification optimization, surface/bulk deformation rig to assess solid-environment reactions for hot process optimization, high throughput rolling to produce appropriate microstructures for subsequent testing, PVD deposition to enable co-development of compatible coatings and electro-thermal-mechanical testing for coating, welding and forming assessment. We will access existing characterisation (SEM and Raman/AFM) facilities off line to enable detailed assessment of bulk and surface structure of down selected systems. Alongside this will be modelling software for bridging the gaps from laboratory high-throughput experiments to manufacturing processes. The equipment requested was identified following extensive engagement and discussions with industrial partners, particularly Tata Steel who have made very significant commitments, and the Tata Steel network of supported UK academics.

The facility will be managed by a dedicated test facilities engineer with a booking system for access for individual equipment items and as a through process assessment tool for new alloy systems. A Steering Group and Industrial Advisory Group will meet regularly to ensure that high quality scientific projects are prioritized, industrial use is encouraged and fair access is maintained. WMG has extensive experience of providing equipment support and user training and have strong links with industry through the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, co-location of the Tata Steel UK R&D centre and the new National Automotive Innovation Centre. Ongoing EPSRC projects have been identified that will immediately benefit from the facility with new research areas being developed in collaboration with industry and other academics.

We feel that the development of this facility will be a critical element in developing an environment where the essential technologies needed for transforming the UK steel industry can be invented and implemented utilizing energy and raw material flexible processes and develop high value products
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.warwick.ac.uk