rom developing new durable and high performance composites and nanomaterials, to finding additional uses and production methods for steel and ceramics, the UK Advanced materials sector is underpinning advances in global manufacturing.
The UK has a long-established reputation for academic excellence in materials science, research and development. It is ranked fourth in the world, hosts five of the top 100 institutions and has universities which attract at least £95 million per annum of materials research funding.
On this page you can find more information about the UKs capabilities in Composites, nanomaterial’s, ceramics, Alloys and steel and the associated joining technologies.
The UK has become renowned as a world leader in the development of advanced composite materials. These high-performance and light-weight materials are proving vital in helping automotive and aerospace industries deliver much needed savings in running costs and carbon emissions. Increasingly UK advanced composites are being widely used in a range of new fields, from construction to consumer goods and even the medical sector, in artificial joints and ligaments. This cross-sector approach is illustrated through companies such as Lola, which produces composites in the aerospace, motorsport and energy industries and Manuplas, a contract manufacturer of composites for the marine, automotive and aerospace sectors.
To maintain the UK’s place at the forefront of the composites market, the Government has recently set up a new £25m National Composites Centre in Bristol, acting as a research hub for the industry, and announced a new National Skills Academy (NSA) for Composites and Biotechnology.
In the related plastics industry the UK is a global leader operating at the cutting edge of technology. The industry is a dominant player worldwide in the three core sectors that make up the plastics industry: material and additive manufacture, material processors and machinery manufacture. A further area of strength is the supply of small-scale processing equipment and ancillary equipment.
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The demand for nanomaterials is also growing fast, and the UK’s established infrastructure of research and manufacturing facilities puts it at the forefront of global development. Many UK companies are equipped to produce nanomaterials such as nanowire and quantum dots in bulk, while others focus on innovative ways to use nanotechnology in sectors from healthcare to consumer electronics. The result is that the UK offers both partnering opportunities, for those wanting to invest in development of nanomaterials, and a proven supply chain for those who simply need to use them.
Today the UK’s advanced ceramics are used in a wide range of high-tech applications by many industries from construction to power transmission, agriculture to steel production. The UK also has a growing capability in waste saving/energy efficient equipment and materials for the ceramics sector.
The benefits of ceramics are their exceptional heat resistance and extreme durability. It is these capabilities that make them so valuable in kilns, furnaces, oil drilling and industrial ovens. In the traditional ceramics heartland of Stoke-on-Trent, Ceramic Gas Products Ltd has harnessed an innovative foaming technology to create Ultralite, an advanced ceramic material that is reducing energy consumption in sanitary ware and tableware manufacturing facilities.
Alloys and Steel
In 2010, the UK steel industry employed 18,900 people and produced nearly 10 million tonnes of steel. The focus in recent years has shifted towards advanced steel products such as bright steel bars, plate and strip mill products, special steels, tubes, pipes and wire, many of which are ultra light and can be used in modern consumer goods such as car bodies and suspension systems. Increased industrial collaboration is accelerating the development of new steel materials such as the Seat Design Company and Tata Steel developing a high strength steel for a new 30% lighter automotive seat.
The UK has a strong metallurgical plant construction sector, with UK companies drawing on years of experience to design and manufacture the equipment used by today’s volume steel producers, all around the world. China’s Shangang steel group turned to Sheffield Forgemasters to develop a five-metre wide, 1,000 tonne plate mill stand which in full operation can produce steel plate between 1500mm and 4900mm wide at speeds of 7.3 metres per second.
With many different materials now in use on the same end product, there’s an increased requirement for joining technologies that ensure that each component is securely bonded. This is particularly vital in areas such as the power generation, automotive and aerospace sectors. Through private and public sector funding, collaborative research and world leading academic sector expertise, the UK leads in many areas of material joining, testing and inspection development.