EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems - Challenges in Future Metals Manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Materials Science and Engineering


Metallic materials are used in an enormous range of applications, from everyday objects, such as aluminium drinks cans and copper wiring to highly-specialised, advanced applications such as nickel superalloy turbine blades in jet engines and stainless steel nuclear reactor pressure vessels. Despite advances in the understanding of metallic materials and their manufacture, significant challenges remain.

Research in advanced metallic systems helps us to understand how the structure of a material and the way it is processed affects its properties and performance. This knowledge is essential for us to develop the materials needed to tackle current challenges in energy, transport and sustainability. We must learn how to use the earth's resources in a sustainable way, finding alternatives for rare but strategically important elements and increasing how much material we recycle and reuse. This will partly be achieved through developing manufacturing and production processes which use less energy and are less wasteful and through improving product designs or developing and improving the materials we use.

In order to deliver these new materials and processes, industry requires a lot more specialists who have a thorough understanding of metallic materials science and engineering coupled with the professional and technical leadership skills to apply this expertise. The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems will increase the number of metallurgical specialists, currently in short supply, by training high level physical science and engineering graduates in fundamental materials science and engineering in preparation for doctoral level research on challenging metallic material and manufacturing problems. By working collaboratively with industry, while undertaking a comprehensive programme of professional skills training, our graduates will be equipped to be tomorrow's research leaders, knowledge workers and captains of industry.

Planned Impact

The CDT in Advanced Metallic Systems will help to address the shortage of research and development specialists in metallic materials by helping to expand the talent pool and by acting as an advocate for the discipline to encourage future generations into the sector.

Reviews by EPSRC [1,2], UK government and industry [3,4] have recognised that solving the worldwide shortage of expertise in this field is critical to the UK's future outlook as an advanced manufacturing economy. Manufacturing in metallic materials currently contributes £18 billion of added value, employs over 404,000 people in the UK and businesses sell £38 billion of metals into the manufacturing supply chain [5,6]. Metallic materials are vital to high-value manufacturing across all sectors including transport, energy, renewables, healthcare, food production, and construction. Companies across all of these sectors (many of whom are world-leaders) are dependent on metallic materials in the manufacture of their products.

Advanced materials manufacturing processes are also key enabling technologies underpinning innovation [7]. There are many exciting emerging innovations in metals manufacturing under development, such as 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, laser machining etc., that will underpin the future competitiveness of UK high added-value manufacturing [8]. To simply maintain current numbers, the metals manufacturing industry will need to recruit 3200 new professional material scientists and engineers between 2010 and 2016 [9].
As well as addressing this shortfall, the CDT will also impact directly on the companies with which it collaborates, on the wider high value manufacturing sector and on the UK economy as a whole, as follows:

1. Collaborating companies, across a wide range of businesses in the supply chain including SMEs' and research organisations will benefit directly from the CDT through:
- Targeted projects in direct support of their business and its future development and competitiveness.
- Access to the expertise and facilities of the host institutions.
- Involvement in the training of the next generation of potential employees with advanced technical and leadership skills who can add value to their organisations.

2. The UK High-Value added Manufacturing Community will benefit as the CDT will:
- Develop the underpinning science and advanced-level knowledge base required by future high technology areas, where there is high expectation of gross added value.
- Provide an enhanced route to exploitation, by covering the full spectrum of technology readiness levels.
- Ensure dissemination of knowledge to the sector, through student-led SME consultancy projects and continuous professional development courses.

3. The wider UK economy will benefit as the CDT will:
- Promote materials science and engineering and encourage future generations to enter the field, through outreach activities developed by the students to increase awareness of the discipline and its key contribution to many technologies we now take for granted and its importance to future innovation.
- Develop and exploit new technologies and products which will help to maintain a competitive UK advanced manufacturing sector, ensure an internationally competitive and balanced UK economy for future generations and contribute to technical challenges in key societal issues such as energy, sustainability and health care.

1. EPSRC Materials International Review 2008
2. EPSRC Materially Better Call 2013
3. Materials UK Structural Materials Report, 2009
4. A Review of Light alloys technology and recommendations for MOD research. Dstl/CR13675 V2.0, 2005
5. Materials UK Structural Materials Report, www.matuk.co.uk, 2009
6. The Metals Sector Skills & Performance Strategy Report, 2005
7. Materials for Key Enabling Technologies, EMRS, 2011
8. Landscape for the future of high value manufacturing, TSB, 2012
9. Semta Labour Market Intelligence Factsheet Metals, 2010



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