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Platinum Electrical Engineering Case Study

Organisation Overview - Platinum Electrical Engineering

Gateshead-based Platinum Electrical Engineering designs and manufactures bespoke electrical machinery, control systems, and equipment for clients in manufacturing, defence, aviation, and automation.

The Challenge

Platinum’s strategy is to exploit their unique engineering expertise working collaboratively with partners to develop innovative solutions for industry and societal challenges. Northumbria University’s team established a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Platinum Electrical Engineering to explore the Building Additive Manufacturing (BAM) potential for building affordable housing and involved creating bespoke additive manufacturing equipment and software. The aim was to create a prototype device capable of the in-situ manufacture of two-storey structures and eventually a row of terraced houses.

The Solution

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are an Innovate UK programme, designed to enable collaboration between academia and industry, facilitating the transfer of knowledge and technology to increase competitivity and to promote an innovation culture. One of the outputs of the KTP is a new BAM capability which ‘prints’ the complete structure of a building by autonomously depositing concrete layer by layer from the ground upwards.

The BAM capability reduces build cost and time, as well as making a significant contribution to net-zero by streamlining the supply chain, reducing construction materials transportation and waste to near net-zero. Cement usage is reduced by using alternative waste materials from steel and coal industries.

KTP Associate Laurence Foster, in collaboration with academics from Northumbria’s Faculty of Engineering and Environment and the Platinum project team, worked on-site at Platinum’s premises in Gateshead to take the project through a detailed two-year project plan involving discovery, technology development, prototyping, testing, and continual enhancements.

Commenting on the KTP, Laurence said: “This project has opened my eyes to the huge potential benefits to industries and wider socio-economic implications through the development of newly emerging innovative systems. I’ve honed my CAD design, 3D printing and project management skills to enable realisation of the second known additive manufacture system in the UK capable of printing concrete.

"I believe this gives opportunity for positive disruption for the construction industry and its traditional methodologies, through adoption of advanced automated manufacturing technologies. This provides new and alternative ways for structures to be built with safer practices and significantly reduced costs, emissions, wastage and timescales compared to existing industry norms.”

KTP Associates have a hybrid role, working at the company, with regular visits from Academic staff to supervise the project and discuss with the company team. Laurence was able to learn from his colleagues at Platinum, including his company supervisor Adam Viney, Electrical Control Engineer, and to collaborate with leading researchers in Northumbria’s Department of Mechanical and Construction Engineering on the investigation of deposition of cementatious materials.

The Impact

The partnership has been rated as “outstanding” by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.  Knowledge Transfer Adviser, John Clayton, of the Knowledge Transfer Network, supported the KTP throughout and commented: "This was an extremely challenging and complex project. The impressive results, demonstrated by this Outstanding grade, were achieved through excellent collaboration among the company and university team, led by KTP Associate Laurence whose performance, insight and team-working was exemplary throughout the KTP."

Platinum are continuing to develop the technology and collaborate with the University, headed by Associate Professor Phil Hackney, an expert in Rapid Manufacturing. Laurence is now employed by Platinum in a new role as Lead R&D Engineer, and continues to work on a range of projects, including the continuation from the KTP project.

The follow-on project, In-situ Building Advanced Construction (IBAC), also represents a major innovation for UK construction in its approach towards net-zero carbon by 2050. Deployment of the BAM equipment on a housing project will reduce build costs and times and deliver new homes more rapidly, addressing the UK’s housing crisis.

Laurence and the team have already been in talks with several councils, housing providers, and architectural organisations to explore collaborative projects using the BAM technologies developed in the KTP.

If you are interested in collaborating with Northumbria University on a research project, contact us today and we can discuss your needs in more detail.

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