Exeter Technologies Group

Published on: 1 May 2014

CALM can make intricate structures using Additive Layer Manufacturing.

ERDF funding allows CALMARE to offer up to 12 hours of business assistance.

A group of three groundbreaking Exeter research centres can help businesses respond to design and manufacturing challenges and also assist with the development of new materials and techniques.

The Exeter Technologies Group - made up of the Centre for Additive Layer Manufacturing (CALM), Exeter Advanced Technologies (X-AT) and the Centre for ALternative Materials and REmanufacturing technologies (CALMARE) - boasts world-leading expertise in materials science and manufacturing processing techniques and can help businesses develop ideas and get products off the ground.

Alongside its innovative materials research, the group has supported SMEs across the South West with a diverse range of projects, from developing new applications for carbon nanotubes and casings for guitar effects units to investigating techniques for separating waste from twin shot injection moulding.

CALM

CALM has the only commercially available high temperature laser sintering platform in the UK.

The centre can provide tailored additive layer manufacturing (ALM) training courses for businesses, covering technical information of the different ALM processes and materials, the new design for manufacture rules and new business model opportunities.

Experts also offer a consulting service that investigates how ALM and CALM’s experience can help advance your product.

CALM is helping to transform the use of ALM polymers from prototype to production using High Temperature Laser Sintering.

This technique can not only be used to build fit and form prototypes, but also to manufacture functional prototypes like Ashwoods Automotive Ltd, who CALM collaborated with to manufacture a revolutionary PEEK motor cover for an integrated motor system for hybrid automotive vehicles.

CALM’s coordinator James Bradbury said: “Since the centre was set up just over three years ago, we are delighted with how the division has grown into a centre of excellence and is helping to highlight the potential of this technology to a wider audience.

“We aim to expand the understanding and use of ALM and, as part of Exeter Technologies Group, bring our ALM process knowledge and material expertise together to form a stronger, innovative group.”

Since its launch, CALM has supported more than 200 companies and has created regional growth of £20million through its additive layer manufacturing business support.

The centre is actively engaged in grant funded research, in addition to supporting companies with contract research.
CALM started life as a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded project in collaboration with EADS UK – now Airbus Group Innovations Ltd.

X-AT

X-AT has a current grant portfolio worth £4million; over the last 16 years, it has been involved in more than 150 contract research projects and partnerships with industry.

The centre offers companies a free one hour consultation, which can identify how the team can help develop your product.

Dr Oana Ghita, Deputy Director of X-AT, said: “X-AT is an excellent example of how academia and industry can work well together. Over the years, we have worked on a vast number of different research projects and collaborated successfully with a number of different businesses, from small to large companies, looking to develop new materials, structures and process options.”

She added: “Many of the initial projects have led to further research and the continued success of X-AT. The realisation that there is demand from industry for our research encouraged us to set up the other two business technology centres within the group – the Centre for Additive Layer Manufacturing and the Centre for Alternative Materials and REmanufacturing Technologies.”

X-AT works on collaborative projects with industry across a wide range of areas, from the production of new bio-derived composites, to new techniques to assist the recycling of plastics.

The centre has access to state of the art equipment to analyse the materials and test how they cope with different stresses and fatigues.

The centre has experience in the development of novel materials and structures, plus knowledge of different manufacturing techniques, including injection moulding and composite manufacturing.

Established in 1998, X-AT was the first centre in Exeter’s technology group and was predominantly a research centre.

CALMARE

The most recently established centre in the technologies group is CALMARE, which can support small and medium sized enterprises (SME) with both material development (testing and material options) and sustainability projects (reduction of in-house waste, recycling options).

CALMARE works with companies wishing to develop appropriate and sustainable materials for their products and aims to support 175 businesses in the South West of England by June 2015.

Thanks to its ERDF funding, CALMARE can offer up to 12 hours of impartial advice or research work for small and medium enterprises on material development and sustainability of materials.

Paul McCutchion, CALMARE’s commercial manager said: “We can give companies options on what materials to use or tell them what’s in the materials they’re using and how its structure compares against other materials.

“CALMARE can also look at reducing a company’s waste by putting the waste back into the manufacturing process or looking at new routes to market for any waste they have.”

The centre has worked with bespoke gate maker Gates & Fences to come up with ways to dispose of sawdust, has carried out numerous material testing projects for companies and also supported an injection moulding company with investigations into how to re-use its in-house waste in its manufacturing process.

Its assistance helps businesses choose what materials they can use for their products; the centre provides testing to contribute to R&D activities and helps to support the recycling and reuse of plastics within the manufacturing industry.

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