Manufacturing contributes to nearly £7 trillion to the global economy and contrary to common belief, UK is one of the largest manufacturing nations (11th in the world despite its recent decline). It accounts for 8.2% of the workforce and 12% of the national output, with the Midlands being the region with the highest proportion of employees in manufacturing. Over the last 30 years, significant progress has been made in the use of robots for manufacturing, particularly in the automotive sector. In addition to strong competition from Europe, US and Japan, new ambitious foreign competitors particularly in the Far East are rising, powered by unprecedented investment in fundamental research and national infrastructure. To maintain its global position, the UK must act strategically and synergistically in leveraging our strengths in robot vision, machine intelligence, control, verification and software and embedded systems. We also need to develop new processes such as structronics for reliable, lightweight, low-cost integrated sensors and structures using rapid manufacturing. Thus far, there is a major shift in the use of robots for manufacturing from big companies to small- and medium-sized enterprises to enable burst manufacturing for one-off products. There is also a significant demand on new RAS platforms for green manufacturing that focuses on the recycling of all the components and subsystems used throughout the manufacturing process to reduce waste.
Key focus research areas within the Network:
- professional service robots
- new RAS platforms for green manufacturing
- collaboration and robot integration.
Manufacturing theme leads within the Network:
- University of Warwick, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG)
- Loughborough University and Heriot-Watt University, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence
- University of Southampton
- Sheffield Robotics
- University of Liverpool