The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, is opening an office in Sheffield, providing local forging and forming houses with easy access to support from the research centre located near Glasgow Airport in the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland in Renfrewshire.
Supported by Sheffield City Council and operating out of an office on the Olympic Legacy Park, the AFRC’s new base is complementing the existing High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult centres in the region - the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Nuclear AMRC.
Effectively bringing the research lab directly to the manufacturers, the new office will help South Yorkshire companies tap into the leading metallurgy capabilities, numerical and analytical process modelling tools and some of the most advanced industry-scale forging and forming equipment in the world, over 260 miles away in Scotland.
For over a decade the AFRC has been pushing the limits of advanced manufacturing and engineering. It helps companies of all sizes, from micro family run businesses to global manufacturing giants to boost productivity and better compete.
The decision to open its first office outside of Scotland marks a crucial stage in the centre’s evolution as it continues to build strong relationships with the UK forging community ahead of the launch of FutureForge, a £20m facility that includes the world’s most advanced hot forging platform.
Speaking of the new base, AFRC Chief Operating Officer, Helen Lightbody said:
Setting up an office in Sheffield is a natural step for the AFRC. It will provide a gateway between our world-leading research expertise and the heart of the UK’s forging community.
“The past year and a half has taught us that we can connect with people and companies anywhere in the world, and here we are putting that into practice - if there is a problem manufacturing a part on a drop stamp, we can plug into the modelling and simulation facilities in Glasgow but carry out testing on the manufacturer’s shop floor in South Yorkshire.
“Our support can be anything from helping the transition from gas to electric furnaces to reducing energy costs, to exploring ways to meet sustainability targets, improving products and processes, or accessing large scale collaborative research projects with global manufacturing companies.”
Russell Crow, Director of Engineering and Development at Sheffield forging house Tinsley Bridge said: “This is great news and the AFRC’s new base will provide extra support for us and other forging companies here in Sheffield where we have a long-established forging history going back hundreds of years.
“At Tinsley Bridge, we have benefited from access to the AFRC’s engineers and researchers who have offered valuable independent advice that has helped improve our equipment and product quality.
“We communicated remotely, but it will be great to have a friendly face here on our doorstep, who can engage with local businesses and hopefully create opportunities for collaboration and sharing best practice.”
Steve Foxley, CEO of the University of Sheffield AMRC, said: "Advanced forging techniques are a key capability of the manufacturing business community in the Sheffield City Region. As such, it is good to see our HVM Catapult network partners at the Advanced Forming Research Centre investing in forging simulation and modelling capabilities close to the local community.
“The deeper collaboration across the HVM Catapult network enables opportunities like these and reciprocal arrangements. I know from our experience of working as part of the HVM Catapult network that this type of support provided to businesses can help drive improvements in productivity and competitiveness.”
A specialist technology centre within the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), the AFRC is the only High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre in Scotland. AFRC Executive Chair Keith Ridgway is the Co-Founder and former Executive Dean of the University of Sheffield AMRC.
Sheffield, or the ‘steel city’ as it is known, was once the steel-making capital of the world and is still home to hundreds of forging and forming houses extending to the West Midlands. The metals sector also remains key to the UK economy and is critical to achieving the national objective of expanding high value manufacturing.