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'Zero defects manufacturing' targeted by Brunel University researchers

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Brunel University has been awarded £213,390 by the European Commission to pursue the holy grail of 'zero defects' in micro manufacturing.

Dr Atanas Ivanov and Professor Kai Cheng in the University's Advanced Manufacturing and Enterprise Engineering department are spearheading the three-year MIDEMMA project. The project aims to develop equipment, technologies and strategies to optimise micro-manufacturing processes and ultimately minimise defects.

Dr Ivanov explained: "Zero defects manufacturing is an objective to which modern industries have long aspired. Producing parts that do not meet design requirements leads to negative economic impacts, from wasted manufacturing resources to the need for more expensive equipment for manufacturing and quality control."

Dr Ivanov questioned previous efforts to develop strategies to minimise defects in manufacturing, such as the heavily-criticised Six Sigma. "Six Sigma is basically an offline method based on analysing the end result of the process and looking for an increase in the defect percentage, so this is not optimal for early detection and correction," he said. "It might be a good reference for traditional manufacturing processes, but is it applicable and will it bring the required effect in micro manufacturing processes?"

Brunel University has therefore teamed up with industrial and academic partners in the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, with the aim of "giving a global solution for the zero defect approach" and increasing the competitiveness of micro-manufacturers. The partners are looking to deliver zero-defect approaches both in large scale and short-run production.

Dr Ivanov said: "We think our new technologies and equipment will reduce process variability in detecting and/or avoiding defects as soon as they appear. This will allow for the use of less expensive machines that can reduce their variability through adaptation monitoring. It also gives the potential to use a less skilled workforce, thanks to acquired process setting knowledge and development of smart decision-making tools."

The project team will develop zero defect technologies and strategies alongside industry partners in three sectors - microengineering, optical components, and the health sector. The results can then be rolled out to other industries.

Brunel has recently established a Collaborative Research Network in Innovative Manufacturing to provide industry with access to the University's extensive manufacturing capability and to create new opportunities for innovation in knowledge transfer, cross-disciplinary research and industrial collaboration. The Network is directed by Professor Cheng, an expert in precision and micro manufacturing, the design of precision machines, and global/sustainable manufacturing and systems.

Notes to Editors

To request an interview with Dr Atanas Ivanov please call Phil Smith on 01727 733888 or email phil@communicationsmanagement.co.uk.