EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems: Metallurgical Challenges for the Digital Manufacturing Environment

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

Abstract

Metallic materials are indispensable to modern human life. From everyday items such as aluminium drinks cans, to advanced applications like jet engine turbine blades and the pressure vessels of nuclear reactors, the positive social impact of metals is difficult to overstate. Yet despite major advances in our understanding of the manufacture and properties of metals, significant challenges remain. Constructing the next generation of electric cars will require improved lightweight alloys and joining technologies. Development of fusion power plants, which will provide near-limitless carbon-free energy, will require the development of advanced alloy systems capable surviving the extreme environments found inside reactors. For the next generation of hypersonic air and space vehicles, we require propulsion systems capable of over Mach 5. Alloys will need to survive 1800 degrees Celsius, be made into complex shapes, and be joined without losing any of their properties. Overcoming these challenges by improving existing metallic materials, developing new ones, and adapting manufacturing methods, then the benefits will be substantial.

Now is a particularly exciting time to be involved in metallurgical research and manufacturing. This is not only because of the kinds of compelling challenges specified above, but also because of the opportunities afforded by the emergence of new advanced manufacturing technologies. Innovative techniques such as 3D printing are enabling novel shapes and design concepts to be realised, whilst the latest solid-state processes allow for the design and production of bespoke alloys that cannot be made by conventional liquid casting techniques. Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, provides opportunities to optimise emerging and established technologies through the use of material and process data and advanced computational techniques. In order to fully exploit these opportunities, we need to understand the complex relationships between the processing, structure, properties and performance of materials, and link these to the digital manufacturing environment.

To deliver the factories of tomorrow, which will be critical to the future strength of UK plc and the wider economy, industry will require more specialists with a thorough understanding of metallic materials science and engineering. These metallurgists should also have the professional and technical leadership skills to exploit emerging computational and data-driven approaches, and be well versed in equality and diversity best practice, such that they can effect positive changes in workplace culture. The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems will help to deliver these specialists, currently in short supply, by recruiting and training cohorts of high level scientists and engineers.

Through collaboration with industry, and a comprehensive training in fundamental materials science and computational methods, professional skills, and equality and diversity best practice, our graduates will be equipped to become future research leaders and captains of industry.

Planned Impact

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems was established to address the metallurgical skills
gap, highlighted in several reports [1-3] as a threat to the competitiveness of UK industry, by training non-materials
graduates from chemistry, physics and engineering in a multidisciplinary environment. Although we will have supplied ~140
highly capable metallurgical scientists and engineers into industry and academia by the end of our existing programme,
there remains a demonstrable need for doctoral-level training to continue and evolve to meet future industry needs. We
therefore propose to train a further 14 UK based PhD and EngD students per cohort as well as 5 Irish students per
cohort through I-Form.

Manufacturing contributes over 10% of UK GVA with the metals sector contributing 12% of this (£10.7BN [4,5]) and
employing ~230,000 people directly and 750,000 indirectly. It is estimated that ~2300 graduates are required annually to
meet present and future growth [5]. A sizeable portion of these graduates will require metallurgical expertise and current
numbers fall far short. From UK-wide HESA data, we estimate there are ~330 home UG/PGT qualifiers in materials and
~35 home doctoral graduates in metallurgy annually, including existing AMSCDT graduates, so it is unsurprising that
industry continues to report difficulties in recruiting staff with the required specialist metallurgical knowledge and
professional competencies.

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 he 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 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, the National Student
Conference in Metallic Materials and industry events.

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 that will increase public awareness of the discipline and its contribution to modern
life, and highlight its importance to future innovation and technologies.
- 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 and sustainability.

References:
1. Materials UK Structural Materials Report 2009
2. EPSRC Materials International Review 2008
3. EPSRC Materially Better Call 2013
4. The state of engineering, Engineering UK 2017
5. Vision 2030: The UK Metals Industry's New Strategic Approach, Metals Forum

Organisations

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2262456 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Huda Sharma Al-Jurani
2261396 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Ashley Scarlett
2261407 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Kavi Sharma
2261399 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Elizabeth Veronica Davis-Fowell
2264821 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Simon PAul Hawkens
2261391 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Michael White
2266917 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Xavier Sanuy Morrel
2264642 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Sakina Collins Rehman
2261431 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Samuel Thomas Lister
2264826 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Vincent Collins Kan
2261412 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Lucy Sharma Farquhar
2262512 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Guy Collins Bowker
2227481 Studentship EP/S022635/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Frances Livera