On Sunday night I hopped back across to Birmingham airport in the UK in order to visit the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry on Monday. The weather has been gorgeous in the UK for the last month or more, so everything was a little parched. That, in combination with the fact England was still in the running for the World Cup, meant the country seemed imbued with optimism: seemingly welcome respite from the Brexit-related anguish the UK has been suffering since the EU referendum.
After a nice dinner with old friends and a quick sleep at a hotel, I took a taxi into the Birmingham office to await a colleague, Chris Jones, with whom I’d be visiting the MTC.
It took us about 45 minutes to drive across to the MTC, where we were welcomed by Peter, Hannah and Tehseen.
Here’s an introductory video that describes what the MTC is about:
The main focus of our trip was to learn about T-ERA – the Thermal Energy Research Accelerator – and their “Factory in a Box” (FIAB) project, with a view to us integrating Dasher 360 into their toolchain.
Here’s a little background video specifically about T-ERA:
FIAB is a platform to create microfactories housed in shipping containers that can be deployed in a variety of situations where you want to maintain local manufacturing but don’t want the resource investment associated with building out fixed infrastructure. We had a tour around the first prototype FIAB – which was borne from a collaboration with Dearman, a company specializing in sustainable, mobile refrigeration systems – where the factory will bend and assemble cryogenic copper piping for vehicles’ cooling systems. This is just the first, though: there’s another FIAB project already in the works to manufacture a phase-change material for thermal energy storage, and the idea is clearly that FIAB will be a platform that can take on all kinds of manufacturing challenges.
I wasn’t able to take photos (or even have my phone) in the area where the FIAB prototype was being worked on: at some point I’m hoping to receive some approved FIAB photos from T-ERA that I’ll share in a follow-up post.
The topic of “configurable microfactories” is a hot one at Autodesk, right now. Members of the FIAB team travelled across for a symposium held at Pier 9 in June on this very subject.
If you have an interest in the area of configurable microfactories and believe you have a project that would be interesting to work on with support from Autodesk, do consider applying for a technology center residency. These residencies are not funded, but residents do get access to technology and expertise that’s relevant to their field of interest.
Beyond FIAB, the MTC has many other ongoing projects and the afternoon was an opportunity to learn about more of these. As a member of the MTC, Autodesk gets to attend regular Technical Advisory Board (TAB) meetings, and there happened to be one being held on the day I visited. It was a great opportunity to get an overview of the areas in which the MTC is working. Here’s a quick photo I took that relates to another area that’s keenly discussed at Autodesk, these days, the future of work.
Having filled my brain with information, it was time for me to head homewards. I had a pint and a burger at the airport (a veggie burger with salad, rather than a Yorkshire pudding burger with chips ;-) before getting on my flight home.
The sky was stunning as I landed in Zurich.
Next week I’ll be heading across to Berlin for the AEC Hackathon. I’ll also be stopping by our Potsdam office to meet with members of the InfraWorks team, which should be very interesting.