Researchers at Bath, led by Professor Paul Maropoulos, have received funding of £3.75 million to explore the next generation of factories, and specifically the use of lasers and optical methods for measurement and the control of machines.

A grant of £2.5million comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the research team has secured match-funding in excess of £1.25 million from ten industrial partners including Airbus, Astrium Satellites, Rolls-Royce, Renishaw and the National Physical Laboratory.

The project, titled ‘Light Controlled Factory’, is led from the University of Bath and involves collaboration with University College London and Loughborough University.

The Bath team of investigators includes Professor Paul Maropoulos, Professor Patrick Keogh and Professor Glen Mullineux from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Jonathan Knight and Dr William Wadsworth from the Department of Physics.

Professor Maropoulos said: “The futuristic vision of this research is to develop and use novel lasers and optical methods for both the accurate measurement of large and complex products and the real time control of machines within the factory of the future.

“This is a large task that requires a multidisciplinary team of investigators drawing on diverse skills and expertise from manufacturing engineering, mechanical engineering and physics.”

Professor Jane Millar, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research said: “This exciting research project was rated top proposal by the EPSRC panel. It is forward looking and innovative research, involving collaboration between our Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Physics, and external partners.

“On behalf of the University I would like to congratulate Professor Maropoulos and all those involved and wish them well in taking this forward.”

The project’s vision is for the widespread adoption and interlinked deployment of novel, measurement-based techniques in factories, to provide machines and parts with aspects of temporal, spatial and dimensional self-awareness, enabling superior machine control and parts verification. The title "Light Controlled Factory" reflects the enabling role of optical metrology in future factories.