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May 9, 2015

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Make safe: High Value Manufacturing Catapult

SHP image of centresIn October 2011, the government set up the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to help foster growth and success in the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector. SHP looks at how safety is embedded across its centres.

Back in 2010, the coalition government announced that it would be spending £200m on creating technology and innovation centres across the UK. The aim of these centres, now known as catapults, was to give business access to both the expertise and the resources that it would need to develop and maintain stronger relationships between academia and industry in order to bridge the gap between innovation and commercialisation. The government originally established seven catapults.

  • High Value Manufacturing (HVM);
  • Cell Therapy;
  • Offshore Renewable Energy;
  • Satellite Applications;
  • Connected Digital Economy;
  • Future Cities; and
  • Transport Systems.

This year, two more catapults are being established; one in precision medicine and another in energy systems. In October 2011, the HVM Catapult was established, comprising seven open access centres:

  • Advanced Forming Research Centre;
  • Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre;
  • Centre for Process Innovation;
  • Manufacturing Technology Centre;
  • National Composites Centre;
  • Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre; and
  • Warwick Manufacturing Group.

The HVM Catapult helps accelerate new concepts to commercial reality, to create a sustainable high-value manufacturing future for this country.

As Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a member of the HVM Catapult Supervisory Board, points out, safety considerations lie at the very heart of each of the centre’s operations.

“Too many people still associate manufacturing with old fashioned and noisy factories. But manufacturing in the UK is transforming itself using the latest technology innovations, which not only improve the speed, accuracy, cost and versatility, but are also real step changes for the better in safety terms.

“Companies of all sizes can access these technologies through the HVM Catapult, which was set up by UK government in collaboration with industry partners. The seven catapult centres offer companies of all sizes open access to the latest industrial scale equipment, world- class expertise and unique opportunities to collaborate and co-innovate – to create new and innovative products and processes which are inherently safer and cleaner. We have the capability to make a radical step change in the safety performance of manufacturing industry – and it’s really exciting.

“I have encouraged HSE inspectors to visit the HVM catapult centres so that they can see what is possible and what is being developed and they can in turn encourage industry to adopt new and safer technologies which will benefit everyone.”

SHP looks at some of the work being done in five of the HVM catapult centres to further embed safety into the manufacturing environment.


The Centre for Process Innovation in Teesside works with businesses to prove that risks in industrial biotechnology can be controlled

Centre for Process Innovation
At its industrial biotechnology platform at Wilton, Teesside, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) works with industry partners to develop biotechnology processes from R&D to commercial scale.

As it is vital that the scaled up process is as inherently safe as possible, the centre builds safety into the process or product itself.

The safety hazards in industrial biotechnology include acute or chronic toxicity, pathogenicity, corrosivity, pressure, flammability and adverse environmental impacts.

As the Centre for Process Innovation develops and adjusts processes, it may affect and change those hazards and associated risks, or even introduce new ones. As such, its approach must be rigorous yet flexible.

Once the centre has identified and assessed the risks, it devises a strategy that utilises a mix of inherent, passive, active and procedural safety measures, offering different solutions to chemical and biological process development.

Although industrial biotechnology poses considerable safety challenges, the centre works with businesses to prove that these risks can be effectively controlled with a robust yet adaptable safety management programme.


The Manufacturing Technology Centre is researching ways to enable humans and robots to work in collaboration

Manufacturing Technology Centre
Traditionally, industrial robots have been placed behind safety fences, not to stop them escaping but rather to prevent humans from entering their working area. This has enabled dirty, dangerous and dull tasks to be carried out while minimising risk to humans.

While this philosophy has been successful in reducing accidents, it has some significant drawbacks. It is relatively inflexible and restricts the ability of manufacturers to be agile, with large fixed areas being segregated for robotics to work in. Furthermore, this approach inhibits the growing number of manufacturing tasks that require humans and robots to work in close collaboration with each other.

The Manufacturing Technology Centre is working with its research and industrial partners to develop technologies that seek to remove these drawbacks. These are in the early stages of development and require significant testing before widely used but will enable the cost effective, agile and collaborative manufacturing environments of the future.


The Nuclear AMRC develops production techniques for very large safety-critical components, which demand the highest standards of safety culture

Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)
In the nuclear industry, nothing is more important than the safety of the environment, the people, plant and processes. This requires a robust nuclear safety culture; a set of observable values and behaviours resulting from the collective commitment of leaders and individuals to put safety first.

Although this should be led from the top, is it a collective responsibility and applies to everyone in the organisation, from the board to the shop floor.

Safety is a key component of the Nuclear AMRC’s Fit for Nuclear programme – which helps companies understand the requirements and challenges of the nuclear energy market (

Safety is a human performance issue, but technology plays a fundamental role too. The Nuclear AMRC has worked with Rolls-Royce, for example, to demonstrate that portable machining technologies can make nuclear manufacturing more flexible and cost-competitive while meeting industry health and safety standards.


Traditional factory operations can involve high-risk manual work. The AFRC demonstrates how state of the art equipment can lead to a radically different environment

Advanced Forming Research Centre
The Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) focuses on metal forming and forging, which often involve a challenging working environment, with extreme temperatures, high press loads, and lubricant and coating substances. Traditional factory operations also involve high-risk manual work, including physical transfer of red-hot material into presses and other equipment. Traditionally, operator skill and experience is key to reducing the risk. However, AFRC demonstrates how the industrial environment in a future forging factory – with state of the art forming and forging equipment – can be radically different and safer.

For example:
1. AFRC demonstrates incremental cold forming technologies, which process material at room temperature, thereby removing hot working risks. Incremental forming requires lower loads and smaller, more standardised equipment, which also carry less risk.

  1. By automating the process of handling of hot parts, and applying lubricants and coatings, AFRC can remove direct manual contact and create a more controlled, cleaner and more pleasant working environment.
  2. It has also started working with partners on energy management in hot environments. Modelling, thermal imaging and diagnostic analysis will allow companies to readily identify and address energy and heat loss, making for a better working environment.

Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre
The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC) is at the cutting edge of collaborative research, focused on advanced machining and materials for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

AMRC129 (1)

The new FT Dornier Rapier Loom at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has been specially designed to help reduce hazards to staff

The AMRC with Boeing evaluates the latent risks to staff working with new manufacturing technologies, such as powder metallurgy (including additive layer manufacture) and composites.

For example, composite processes such as weaving, machining and water-jet cutting could pose health risks.

The AMRC Composite Centre’s new FT Dornier Rapier Loom has been specially designed to weave composites without the risk of the highly electrically conductive carbon fibres causing it to short circuit.

The loom is housed in its own enclosure to prevent carbon fibre particles from damaging other equipment, which could result in associated hazards to staff.

It is also undertaking research into the implications of using new materials such as nanocomposites and graphene.

For more information about the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, visit:

SHP would like to thank Henriette Lyttle-Breukelaar, marketing and communications director at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, for co-ordinating the content for this article.

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