Academic gap in structural dynamics narrows with funding having been received for the development of one of the largest dynamic test facilities in the UK at Sheffield University.
There is a critical gap in UK Universities in medium and large scale infrastructure for structural dynamics, which is considered detrimental to UK innovation. Now, the Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid, has announced a £4 million investment boost for the University of Sheffield to build one of the largest dynamic test facilities in the UK, taking the total investment in the facility to £11m. Airbus and Rolls-Royce have expressed support for the plans to build the new facility, while Sheffield’s global research partners and clients also include Boeing, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline and Siemens.
The Structural Dynamics Laboratory for Verification and Validation will be built on the second phase of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Park, and will enable the University to work with industry to test and research engineering structures and systems from the component level to full scale. A modular environmental chamber in the laboratory will be able to control temperature, humidity and wind speed as well as simulate rain and snow, allowing testing across a range of environments previously inaccessible to academic research.
“Computer simulation of models of the way large structures behave in use are increasingly powerful, but for industry to realise the full benefits of these techniques we need to test these models against large scale experimental data, so they can be confident of their results,” said Professor Richard Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield. “Better modelling also means we will be able to move from structures that have a safe-life design philosophy to a damage-tolerant one which offers cost savings through extending the lifetime of existing structures.”
“This new facility is extremely important for the University of Sheffield and will give the UK a world-lead in verification and validation research while accelerating new methods and test protocols,” said Professor Keith Worden, head of the Dynamics Research Group (DRG) in the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and set to become Director of the new facility. “This facility will test structures like helicopters and airframes at full-scale and will enable the UK to take a world lead in verification and validation.”
The Dynamics Research Group is currently part of £4.2M EPSRC Engineering Nonlinearity Programme Grant. This consortium of five universities and eight industrial partners is focused on five main research themes:
* Uncertainty Analysis
* Random Forcing
* Modal Testing
* Active Control
The focus of the work on non-linearity is the identification and modelling of the type of non-linear systems which commonly occur in Mechanical and Structural Engineering. There is interest in all aspects of the problem: theoretical, computational and experimental.
Methods investigated recently include: time-series methods and AVD models; Hilbert transforms; and restoring force surfaces. Recent applications have included wave forces of offshore structures and the validation of in-situ fault detection systems. A long-standing interest has been with the modelling of automotive hydromounts – notoriously non-linear systems, where new techniques are being developed for piece-wise linear and hysteretic systems, which work when traditional methods fail. Software for the production of time-scale and time-frequency distributions is used in machinery diagnostics and image compression problems.
Construction is already underway on the first project at the site, the £43m Factory 2050 which will be the UK’s first fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing facility for collaborative research. Plans are also in place to develop the existing Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre which could create 1,800 new jobs and provide an annual direct contribution of up to £74.2m to the local economy. Other new research buildings are expected to include the £30m National Material Institute, which is part of the Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials announced in December and a £20m Fast Make Centre of Excellence.