General: TWI is one of Europe's foremost independent not-for-profit research and technology organisations, employing 550 people with an annual turnover of €60 million. TWI works across all industry sectors with expertise in key aspects of materials and materials joining. The majority of TWI's activities (65%) are contract research, funded by1 industry and built around the development of advanced technologies. TWI is also an active participant in collaborative research programmes in Europe and the UK. Customers of TWI include approximately 3500 companies and organisations representing all sectors of manufacturing from over 60 countries. TWI has had a proven recorded in successfully participating in and managing collaborative projects funded by the European Commission (including REA projects) and the UK government.
Expertise: TWI has a RSW processing facility at the Technology Centre in Cambridge, UK, where a variety of spot welding and manipulation equipment is available for procedure and consumable testing. This will allow the development and application of a range of weld procedures for different consumable material and parameter combinations, which will be required to produce electrode wear samples and the data necessary for the development of SmartDress. To aid this process, a range of non-destructive (NDT) and destructive test facilities are also available; which will permit detailed analysis and categorisation of consumable wear and degradation using optical/SEM microscopy. The TWI Software Team develops commercial software engineering solutions by working with in-house technology experts at TWI. Recent projects include NDT control and data measurement systems, submerged equipment control systems, enterprise level data management systems and high performance engineering calculation engines.
Role in project: The main role of TWI will begin with the specification of the SmartDress system as a whole; followed by the development of the control system that will form the hub of the respective inputs/outputs for the abrasive dresser and tip quality sensor systems produced by the other RTD partners (WP1). The development of these sub-systems will be supported by TWI through the production of a range of worn electrode samples that will be supplied to the two RTD partners. TWI will oversee final integration of the software/hardware and subsequent validation of the complete system (WP5). TWI will also support the dissemination of information (via a UK Weld Engineer Forum set up by TWI) and training.
During the final validation of the complete system, it is intended that trials are performed at Bentley Motors in Crewe, UK. Bentley Motors production is suitable for initial industrial testing of the SmartDress system since it is low-volume line and the process times are relatively (in comparison with high-volume producers) long. This will enable the SmartDress system to be industrially evaluated, as well as run different operational scenarios, without impacting production volumes. Bentley Motors have not been directly included in this consortium for thereasons explained earlier in this section.
Benefits expected: The outcome of the project will help TWI maintain their position as a world leader in materials joining technology, particularly in a sector / mature process, which has seen diminishing research and development as compared with other emergent technologies (such as laser processing). Whilst strengthening the competitiveness of participating SME companies, SmartDress will also add to the interest and momentum of the Weld Engineer Forum; promoting future collaborations.
Dr Jonathan Blackburn (MEng, PGDip, EngD) joined TWI in 2010, after completing an Engineering Doctorate in Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Manchester, as a Project Leader. He has significant experience in the development of high integrity welding processes, and in the application of optical techniques to understand key effects. Since joining TWI, he has successfully managed projects in the value range €10,000 to €1,400,000.Gary Muggridge joined TWI in 1976 as a research technician, and since that time has specialised in the development and application of resistance welding and associated processes. His involvement in over 50 projects related to RSW includes supporting the development of early RSW adaptive weld control systems. His time supporting the automotive sector gives him key experience in optimising and troubleshooting during the development and optimisation of new RSW process technology.
Andy Payne (BSc) joined TWI in 2003 as the Software Development Team Leader in the Software Development Group based in Cambridge. Andy has been involved in developing software for both desktop and mobile environments for a range of engineering applications. His knowledge extends across the full range of tasks required to bring a control system from conceptual design to prototype application; including requirements capture, software engineering and test system implementation. His previous projects include a real time welding control system controlled by measuring the weld pool size from thermal imaging input, real time mobile telephony communication systems and test machine control and data logging systems used for testing within TWI.