The Materials Processing Institute is set to play a key role in a £10 million digitisation project. The Teesside-based research and innovation centre will work alongside Liberty Steel Group’s Hartlepool Pipes mill, Stocksbridge-based Liberty Speciality Steels, Warwickshire-based Shiftec and TSC Simulation of Nottingham to create digital twins of the plants in order to demonstrate the advances that can be achieved within the production process.
The two-year project, which is worth £2 million to the Institute, is being funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, through its Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, part of the government’s larger Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
It aims to highlight the benefits of introducing industrial digital technologies (IDT) to steel and other sectors serving strategic manufacturing and construction supply chains.
The Institute will undertake an initial pilot project using its Normanton Steel Plant to assess and improve the IDT before it is applied to the production processes operated by Liberty Steel Group.
Chris Oswin, who leads the Materials Processing Institute’s Digital Technologies Group, said: “The real challenge in adopting smart technology is how it can be retro-fitted to improve the performance of existing plant.
“Whilst this project is centred on the metals sector, it can easily be applied to any process where digital imaging can be linked to machine learning and intelligent process control.
“The three sites involved will act as demonstrators for IDT – enabling the lessons learned to be shared across other foundation industries, including energy, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and the process industries.”