UoA 12 - Engineering


As the largest area of research activity within the University of Huddersfield and with long-established national and International links with engineering and manufacturing industries, our aim is to deliver excellent impact through close collaboration with industry partners, to accelerate knowledge exchange and to promote the adoption of new technologies.

Unit of Assessment 12 submitted seven impact case studies for REF2021, which were selected to showcase some of our considerable economic and societal impacts. These draw on examples of impact from a diverse group of industry sectors including aerospace, automotive, rail, metrology equipment/software /services, flow handling (e.g. industrial valves), and audio engineering (e.g. microphones and speakers). With examples from long-term research programmes with multiple industry partnerships, our work has resulted in significant and far reaching impacts which benefit numerous stakeholders outside of academia.

The following impact case studies have been entered for the REF 2021 submission. Find out more below.


Case study: Understanding Rail Freight Vehicle Performance to Reduce the Likelihood of Derailment

University of Huddersfield research has enabled the UK rail freight industry to reduce the derailment risk for freight wagons by up to 50% via the provision of new metrics. The metrics utilised existing railway sensor infrastructure and were relevant for more than 90% of the wagons in the UK.The research informed industry action to assuage safety concerns raised by the regulator, which was then able to remove “risk of freight derailment” from its critical issue list. Findings were included in a national standard to prevent future risk from new vehicle designs.

A new derailment risk for was identified for repurposed wagons. Otherwise redundant coal wagons are now to be modified to carry aggregates, with improved safety, savings of up to £175m over replacement rolling stock and greater network utilisation. Beneficiaries include freight operating companies (such as Freightliner), the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and Network Rail.


Case study: Enabling Worldwide Industry Innovation through the Development of Surface Characterisation and their Standardisation

Research in surface metrology at Huddersfield has impacted on the global manufacturing industry through international standardisation of areal (3D) surface characterisation (ISO 25178 part 2, 3, and 71). These enabled the consistent interpretation of surface data and aided cooperation across industrial supply chains for many manufactured components worldwide. Today, products from all surface metrology instrument manufacturers are compliant with these ISO standards. A leading metrology software vendor, Digital Surf, has incorporated the research findings directly into its products and 80% of surface measurement instruments in industry globally use their software. The resulting interoperability has hugely benefited end-user companies and consumers by enabling instrument sales, speeding up new product and new applications development.


Case study: Optimising the Performance of Safety Critical Industrial Valves

The design of valves used in challenging conditions, such as those found in the oil, gas and nuclear industries, has traditionally been based on the experience of the engineer rather than reproducible mathematical modelling. This led to unpredictable and sub-optimal performance. The inability to consistently ensure quality compliance, slowed the development of new technology.

Research at the University of Huddersfield, developed valve design methods that were responsible for reducing design lead times and manufacturing costs for an SME. The resulting valves were up to 250% more accurately sized and they also out-performed competitor products. This resulted in an increase in sales of 640% and helped the company win a contract worth circa £3m.


Case study: Innovative 3D Microphone Array Designs for Improved Immersive Listening Experiences

3D sound recording systems have often operated sub-optimally because no theoretical model of the relationship between the set-up of the microphones (the array) and the way that a listener perceived the resulting playback existed. Research from the University of Huddersfield created such a model and established novel principles that enabled microphone arrays to have a more compact form, while improving the sense of realism and spatial impression for the listener.

The knowledge was commercially exploited as the design basis for an award-winning microphone array by Schoeps, a world-renowned microphone manufacturer based in Germany. The new array was adopted by sound engineers for major broadcast events such as the FIFA World Cup, BBC Proms and the French Open. Other microphone arrays and an array design app that was based on the research became essential tools for 3D sound recording at Abbey Road Studios (UK), Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (Austria), Arizona Public Broadcasting Services (USA) and Tianjin Juilliard School for musicians (China).


Case study: Improving Rail Safety by Enabling the Adoption of Modern Techniques by the Industry

Safety is a major concern on railway networks. Traditionally operators had more data available to them than they were able to analyse and interpret, and this led to risks being left unattended, putting passengers and railway staff potentially at risk of injuries and fatality. The impact of research by the University of Huddersfield has been a significant improvement in the effectiveness of railway safety management systems, allowing new safety insights to be extracted from unstructured data, new visualization techniques to be adopted and new tools to be developed that provide rapid analysis of operational data to identify changes in safety risk.

Railway undertakings in the UK were able to improve their safety management (including Network Rail and LNER), benefitting passengers and policy makers (Rail Safety and Standards Board operators in mainland Europe (e.g. RENFE in Spain).


Case study: Improving Machine-Tool Accuracy and Productivity

Machine tools are used widely in manufacturing across many sectors (aerospace, automotive, automation, green energy, consumer goods, etc.). Poor machine accuracy leads to waste in production time and energy, and scrapped components. Research by the University of Huddersfield created new ways to measure and interpret errors, thus enabling the elimination of predictable failures.

The research led to the development of new measurement products and the opening of new markets for machine tools. The processes developed were embedded in blue-chip companies, such as aerospace manufacturers. Two SMEs commercialized elements of the research, which are now sold globally. Further benefits, to second and third-tier users, are estimated to exceed £90m.


Case study: Optimization of Railway Wheel Profile Design and Maintenance

The interface between the wheel and rail is critical for train operation, and maintenance of wheels and track is one of the largest areas of cost in the rail sector. A significant challenge is transitioning between tram and heavy rail networks. Standard wheel profiles can cause damage and increase the vehicle derailment risk. The tram-train wheel profile developed through this research has been instrumental in the opening of the award-winning tram-train route in Sheffield, with more than ten other transport authorities planning similar services.

Research into the optimization of wheelset maintenance resulted in significant revisions to national standards and guidance to operators and generated operational and cost benefits. The tools and techniques developed were trialled by Alstom, the French rolling stock manufacturer, increasing wheelset maintenance (re-profiling) intervals by up to 43%. A number of the tools have been incorporated into commercial systems, such as the Alstom ‘Trainscanner’ and MRX Technologies’ ‘Surface Crack Measurement’ device.