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MANTRA takes high-tech manufacturing on the road

mantraBe on the watch for MANTRA as you drive around the country — it could soon be coming to a school or business near you.

No, it’s not a yoga operation on tour or a character from the latest Transformers film: MANTRA (for Manufacturing Technology Transporter) is an engineering and manufacturing road show on wheels that aims to demonstrate the manufacturing and assembly line technology of the future to inspire young people to take up careers in engineering.

The 14-metre-long, specially modified HGV is packed with the latest machinery and simulators. Established by the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC) and with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry sponsors, MANTRA aims to introduce companies to the latest production engineering technology and techniques helping them to innovate with new products, increase productivity and keep UK manufacturing competitive.

The truck features research on advanced machining and advanced assembly technologies, two areas where there is a clear demand from industry. It will also be used to show secondary school pupils how exciting manufacturing can be — using eye catching technologies such as virtual reality assembly and advanced modelling systems.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield have worked with Rolls-Royce to develop ways to achieve more efficient machining. The researchers devised a new rig to reduce vibrations during the process, allowing material to be removed from the casings nearly 20 times faster than usual.

The team also showed that new ceramic cutting tools could work better than existing ones and demonstrated that by using particular machining techniques, it is not necessary to employ environmentally damaging chemical-etching methods to achieve the required finish. The findings should directly save a manufacturer more than £1.5 million each year and increase productivity significantly.

Highlights of the demonstration equipment within MANTRA include:

  • A fully functioning, computerised multi-tooled lathe capable of producing complex precision parts precisely machined to tolerances of thousandths of a millimetre. The cutting action is displayed by a special camera on a 600inch plasma screen;
  • Special head gear that allows users to experience interactive three-dimensional computer models of complex machinery. Components can even be removed and rotated in three-dimensional space using a joystick designed to act like a hand.

The high-tech truck aims to visit more than 400 companies and 30 schools over the next three years.

“This demonstrator does two really important jobs,” said Atti Emecz, director of communications for the EPSRC. “It connects UK industry with the latest tools and techniques to ensure UK manufacturing and engineering remain world-class while developing the economy. It will also help to encourage young people to take up career paths that will create the next generation of world-class researchers and engineers.”

“The technologies being showcased by MANTRA are already making a contribution to Boeing’s products, such as the 787 Dreamliner,” said Sir Roger Bone, president of Boeing UK. “We are particularly pleased that the capabilities of the AMRC are being highlighted in this way, inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

1 Comment

  • intrigued
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Its fine showing kids the future of science and manufacturing and trying to get them involved.
    The only problem is when they grow up and become the next generation of engineers and scientists there is no help in this country to succeed, so they go abroad.
    The best bet is teach them how to fill-in realms of paper for applications by the time they get approved they will just be leaving University….jobs a goodn!!!

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