Professor Ashutosh Tiwari has been appointed as Airbus/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Digitisation for Manufacturing at the University of Sheffield, starting a five-year research project to develop highly automated, flexible manufacturing solutions to improve the productivity of aircraft wing manufacture and assembly.

Professor Tiwari’s research will focus on addressing the four main challenges involved in the digitisation of manufacturing: how to equip both new and pre-existing machines to monitor the quality of products as they are being built; how to digitise human actions and their impact on the shop floor for skill-intensive activities; how to use live data to digitise the movements of parts, trays, jigs, fixtures and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) on the shop floor; and how to build a digitised factory that learns from human interventions to resolve deadlocks and bottlenecks in manufacturing operations.

Professor Tiwari said: “My vision is to establish a world leading engineering research group focused on developing a digitised factory that requires no setups for manufacturing wing variants and no intrusive measurements of wing parts for ensuring quality.

“I am particularly excited by the prospect of pursuing both use-inspired digitisation research and underpinning fundamental research, supported by industrial-scale facilities at Airbus and Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).”

The focal point of Professor Tiwari’s research will be the AMRC’s ‘Factory 2050’ - the UK’s first fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing research facility for collaborative research, capable of rapidly switching between different high-value components and one-off parts.

The Chair will enable Professor Tiwari, who is based at the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering (ACSE) at the University of Sheffield, to establish a world-leading research collaboration in advanced manufacturing between ACSE, Airbus UK and the University of Sheffield’s AMRC.

The Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chairs scheme aims to strengthen the links between industry and academia by supporting exceptional academics in UK universities to undertake use-inspired research that meets the needs of the industrial partners.

David Ramsay Harra, Head of Innovation and Development for Assembly at Airbus, said: “I am extremely excited to welcome Professor Tiwari as the Airbus/Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Digitisation for Manufacturing at the University of Sheffield. At Airbus, we always strive to drive innovation by pushing the boundaries.

“The collaboration will allow us to do this through rapid development and demonstration of new approaches and technologies. I see the appointment of Professor Tiwari as a key enabler and accelerator to this process.”

Professor Daniel Coca, Head of Department at ACSE, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Professor Tiwari has been awarded this prestigious Chair by the Royal Academy of Engineering. The new partnership established with Airbus and AMRC represents the achievement of a key milestone in the delivery of one of our key strategic research aim, to capitalise on our renowned expertise in autonomous, complex and intelligent engineered systems and establish a world-leading research and innovation capability in digital manufacturing, also known as Industry 4.0.”

Notes to editors

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

We have three strategic challenges:
- Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
- Address the engineering skills crisis
- Position engineering at the heart of society

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