Materials KTN – Second AGM
New initiatives were announced at the Materials KTN’s second Annual General Meeting on 24 April, held in London, UK.
Schemes to be run over the coming year include mini secondments that will place a materials scientist or design specialist within a business to provide solutions; Materials Innovation/Knowledge Transfer Fellowships, where industry representatives and academics swap places; Super SPARK Awards for creating product demonstrators; and the Materials KTN Business Plan Prize.
These seek to fulfil the Network’s aim to help the UK materials industry be globally competitive. As Operations Director of the KTN Robert Quarshie explained, much progress has already been made through the work of the nine nodes (see box top, right). As a taster:
- Faraday Advance has set up the DRIVENet project to stimulate design and processing initiatives to meet targets stipulated in the EU End of Life Vehicle Directive – 95% of a vehicle’s mass must be recovered and recycled by 2015.
- By linking a windscreen manufacturer with specialist surface analysis skills, the KTN helped ensure an estimated £300,000 worth of cost savings.
- DCS designs, a start-up in Portsmouth, UK, and Camira Fabrics Ltd, an SME in Mirfield, UK, have been assisted by Technitex to produce technical textiles for the UK’s National Health Service
But there is a long way to go. Professor Patrick Grant, Executive Director of Faraday Advance, the transport node of the KTN, explained that while many opportunities exist for novel and improved materials in areas such as energy and manufacturing efficiency, crime prevention and sensors, the following challenges remain and must be met:
The impact of globalisation – UK Industry needs to gain a greater market share through increased functionality of materials and products.
- Move to high value added, mass customised items through flexible manufacturing processes, increased automation and rapid adoption of emerging technologies.
- Retaining and improving the skills of engineers and technicians – By developing secondments and knowledge transfer partnerships.
- Increasing demands from end users – Products must have extended lifecycles, use less energy and produce fewer harmful emissions.
Materials in space
With the focus on novel materials and new horizons, it was apt that the rest of the day’s proceedings were dedicated to ‘Materials in the Space Age – A Universe of Opportunities’.
Dr Constantinos Stavrinidis from the European Space Agency (ESA) explained how engineers normally think of materials in spacecraft as being structural materials, but optical and electronic materials are now coming to the fore and new materials and applications are emerging.
Materials in outer space have to endure particularly harsh environments of vacuum, day and night thermal cycling of between -25ºC to 125ºC, vibration, monatomic oxygen attack, radiation, debris impacts, and acoustic sound pressure during launch, orbit and landing. New temperature materials are needed for a breakthrough in propulsion, for microelectromechanical systems for smaller satellites, and in thermal sub-systems, coolers and micro-compressors where thermal control is vital in components such as sensitive cameras.
The drive is towards lighter and stronger structures so that payloads’ weights can be increased, said Dr Torbin Henriksen, Head of the Structures Section at ESA. Bonding and joining are key issues.
To meet these goals, he outlined R&D in inflatable structures for lower mass and production costs of solar arrays, sunshields, antennae, solar sails and booms. Also under development are stable structures that use glass and ceramics for mirrors and optical benches, and in payload module constructions where high thermoelastic stability is required.
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