18 May 2016
Prof Xiangqian Jiang working on precise measurement tools for future factories and "Industry 4.0".Huddersfield University’s Professor Xiangqian (Jane) Jiang FREng has been appointed as the UK's Royal Academy Engineering/Renishaw Chair in Precision Metrology. Professor Jiang’s research at the university will support the future of manufacturing by developing new precise measurement tools, including photonics-based systems, for use in smart, automated factories.
New technology is required to ensure that factory systems remain reliable during the design, production and verification of high value products. However, current measurement systems lag behind the pace of development of computer technology, which is being used to create increasingly smart, connected production lines – so-called ‘Industry 4.0’.
The research will bring together modern mathematics and optics to create sensor hardware and bespoke software, with a new approach to hierarchical design and metrology. Building on her experience in the automotive industry and over 20 years’ research in measurement science, the new research funding will enable Prof. Jiang to develop the technology that will form the backbone of autonomous manufacturing infrastructure over the coming 30 years.
“I am delighted to be able to work closely with Renishaw, a world-leading engineering and scientific technology company, and the Royal Academy of Engineering to challenge formidable barriers in today’s measurement technologies,” she commented.
Under this research sponsorship, the next generation of embedded metrology technologies will be explored, generated and then integrated into manufacturing systems and platforms. It will facilitate the future factory to produce ‘right first time and every time’ fabrication of complex products in many sectors, for example, aerospace, automotive, electronics, healthcare, energy and even astronomy.
Professor Geoff McFarland, Group Engineering Director at Renishaw, said, “We would like to congratulate Professor Jiang on her appointment to this important role and look forward to working closely with her in the coming years. It is highly gratifying that metrology is increasingly being recognized for its importance as a core enabling technology at the very heart of the manufacturing process and no longer simply a standalone."
Interviewed by optics.org, Prof. Jiang commented, “This new appointment builds on my previous research in embedded optical instrumentation. I received a prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant in 2008, which focused in the Fundamentals and Principles for Measurement and Characterization of 21st Century Science and Engineering Surfaces
o.o: In relation to metrology using optical systems, what types of process and application are you working on at the moment?
"I am continuing research into new optical sensors and instruments but increasingly the focus is on how these can be integrated into manufacturing platforms and production lines. The research that I and my team are undertaking will also lead to new technology systems for machine tool technology – CNC, Additive and roll-to-roll manufacturing.”
o.o: What types of optical systems are you working with?
“One of my key areas of research is developing and generating bespoke optical systems. Current systems are not advanced enough for the future demands of high-value advanced manufacturing sectors, which require precision surface measurement for their products. By improving metrology instrumentation, the benefits to industry will be reduced manufacturing costs as well as enabling complex components to be produced, which currently only exist in the design phase.
“Once the instruments are in a prototype stage we look for partners to commercialize them. We are currently working with a commercial partner to commercialize our wavelength-scanning interferometer, which was awarded the IET Innovation Award in 2014 ”.
o.o: Are you working with other academic and industrial partners?
“We work closely with NPL (National Physical Laboratory) as well as a range of industrial partners. The four co-creators of the EPSRC Centre were NPL, Renishaw, Rolls-Royce and Taylor Hobson and we are working with companies from a range of sectors including aerospace, automotive, instrumentation, healthcare, machine-tools and optics sectors. We’re also currently doing some feasibility study projects with universities including Strathclyde, Sheffield and Surrey.”
o.o: What is the link between your work and Industry 4.0?
“Smart factories, which will be at the heart of Industry 4.0, will require next-generation sensors and instrumentation so there is a need for further breakthroughs in optical sensor research and instrument development to address the challenges around optical performance and sensor response. For industry, the development of self-aware and self-learning control and measurement systems at a new level of sophistication will result in metrology solutions that are linked to the design process and deliver real-time verification and process control capabilities.”
About the Author
Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.