The IfM is part of the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Department. Our world-leading research covers a wide range of manufacturing issues from new technologies to manufacturing operations and management and government policy. Our researchers are working on projects that include designing new medical diagnostic and water filtration devices, understanding how manufacturing can use fewer of the earth’s resources and how supply chains can be designed to reduce food waste or deliver better patient care. We work closely with businesses and policymakers to ensure that our research is put into practice in the ‘real world’.

We run an undergraduate and a postgraduate course, both of which have been designed to create the manufacturing leaders of the future. Our students leave us with the knowledge of global manufacturing issues and the creativity, innovation and drive to develop new manufacturing solutions that can deliver real social and economic benefits worldwide.

Sixth formers making factories more efficient

The EPSRC Centre for Industrial Sustainability based at the IfM has piloted an initiative which puts sixth formers into factories to look for possible efficiencies. The students learn about the importance of manufacturing engineering for solving some of the world’s most pressing problems and for creating economic prosperity. They also learn about how we can tackle the impact manufacturing has on the environment, using up scarce resources and contributing to climate change. This project gives the students a chance to start solving some of the challenges which will affect their generation and those to come. But the project isn’t only about what the students get out of it. The businesses they visit benefit from a fresh-eyed systematic review of their manufacturing processes and clear recommendations on how they can reduce inefficiencies.

Researchers and staff from the IfM have been working with the Wales-based TYF Group, an organisation working with government, business & educators to help young people take adventure into everything they do, stretching mind, body and thinking to generate new solutions to old challenges. EEF Wales and doctoral researchers from Warwick and Cardiff Metropolitan University have also been involved.

For the pilot, 34 students from Cardiff Sixth Form College took part in a week-long series of activities which included being trained in industrial efficiency and sustainability and in using a set of tools and lenses which help to identify waste in industry. The students first applied these tools to their school building and immediately presented an improvement plans to the school staff.

They then took what they had learnt into Altro Ltd, an innovative flooring and wall-cladding company based in Letchworth. The students presented a wide range of potential improvements to the research team and Altro executives, including novel technology solutions to some of Altro's challenges. "The students’ suggestions were well thought through and will now be taken back and reviewed. We hope to share the improvements with everyone soon. It was great to have fresh eyes here. We plan to involve local schools next", said one of Altro's continuous improvement engineers.

Subject to funding, the Centre hopes to roll out the project to many more schools – and factories – across the UK.

Postgraduate students help manufacturer approach new market

The MPhil in Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management (ISMM) is a one-year postgraduate programme designed to equip numerate graduates, primarily from Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths backgrounds, with the skills, personal development and industrial experience to be immediately effective in their early careers in industry. As part of their studies, students take part in four two-week projects in which they tackle real business challenges.

In early 2016, the IfM arranged for two students to carry out a project at Titan Motorsport & Automotive Engineering Ltd, which specialises in the design, development and manufacture of engine, steering and drivetrain components for motorsport and automotive applications. The aim was to understand its unique production technology for carbon fibre products and to create a marketing plan for the technology. The students initially carried out a diagnostic investigation to understand Titan’s technology and its potential markets, which they then used to create a marketing plan and supporting how-to documents. They then made recommendations on new markets to explore and future product developments.

ISMM student Khaled Hammad, who took part in the project, said: “The projects were the most enjoyable aspect of the course, as I got to witness the day-to-day challenges of business life and propose solutions based on what I have learnt during the course.

The Titan Motorsport placement was intriguing as we had to learn about the technical aspects of the technology in order to understand its unique selling points and identify its best use and potential markets. Witnessing the different points of view of stakeholders and understanding the motivation behind them was one of the most interesting parts of the project.”

Innovation at the IfM starts with our undergraduate students

Every year, 3rd year Engineering students taking part in the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET) course at the IfM are asked to design an innovative product with real business potential. In groups of three or four they identify a customer need, research the market, develop an original design concept and create a full business plan for their product. The products are then created in our design lab –which features 3D printers and laser-cutting machinery - and presented at the annual Design Show held at the IfM.

Over the years, these projects have generated some exciting new ideas and innovative technology, with some also capturing the attention of the media or going on to win awards.

Examples include:

  • A solar-powered device which autonomously tracks the sun and ventilates to provide a constant baking temperature - Infinity Oven. It received international media attention, with the product making it into various “most brilliant inventions for developing countries” articles.
  • The BrekTech Wafflestation, a continuous flow waffle production device for commercial use which is automated and remotely controlled via Bluetooth, currently entered for the James Dyson Award competition.
  • The Inclusion Chair which allows wheelchair-users in India to interact socially at floor level. It won the Sustainable Product Design Competition, organised by the University of Cambridge EcoHouse Initiative and Cambridge Research & Development Ltd, as well as the Social Enterprise award at the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs £1k Challenge.

To see this year’s projects visit: