Dr Devine

AIT to host Ireland’s first ECP4 ‘Smart Manufacturing’ consortium

Athlone Institute of Technology will host Ireland’s first European Composites, Plastics and Polymer Processing Platform (ECP4) Annual meeting and General Assembly this May 30th and 31st at the Hudson Bay Hotel, Athlone.

As a member of ECP4, AIT has arranged an open half-day seminar to highlight Smart Manufacturing approaches to this active EU consortium of industry members and research centres to promote how Irish Industry and academia collaborate to advance manufacturing in the Irish setting. Smart Manufacturing and Industrial 4.0 have been driven by the need to overcome competitive pressures.

In the Western world, where the cost of labour is high, the only way for companies to compete with countries with low-cost labour is through highly sophisticated, automated processes. It does this by harnessing data which can then be used for process control to make sure the parts are within spec and have a high tolerance and a lower defect rate.

The seminar will be run with the support of the Enterprise Ireland funded Technology Gateway Centres in Applied Polymer Technologies (APT Ireland) and Connected Media (Comand), and the SFI funded Confirm Centre for Smart Manufacturing.

Speakers include Professor Conor McCarthy, Director of the Confirm Centre for Smart Manufacturing, Dr Niall Murray, Founder and PI Truly Immersive and Interactive Multimedia Experiences, Software Research Institute, AIT.

Industry representatives David Keeley, Senior Executive (Innovation) at Enterprise Ireland, Declan Byrne, Sales Director at TSM Control systems, Dave Ryane, Fanuc UK and Mike Wilson, General Industry Sales Manager for the UK and Ireland, ABB robotics will also deliver presentations aligned to the central theme of the annual meeting.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Dr Declan Devine, Director of the Materials Research Institute (MRI) at Athlone Institute of Technology said: “We’re the first in Ireland to play host to the ECP4 annual meeting, so this is a fantastic opportunity to try and build on the work that we’ve done over the last couple of years as members to try and showcase what Ireland can offer on a European level”.

This year’s ECP4 meeting in Ireland will give the MRI a platform to highlight their Smart Manufacturing and Polymer Processing agendas, getting it out there on a European and national level that AIT are spearheading Smart Polymer Manufacturing and Polymer Processing in the national setting.

In Ireland, the polymer industry consists of approximately 200 companies and employs 12,000 people. According to Dr Devine, 80% of all medical devices have at least one polymer component making it a core technology in the MedTech sector where there are over 400 companies employing over 27,000 people.

With almost 50 years’ experience training graduates in the polymer space, Athlone Institute of Technology is the only place in the country that offers students training to honours degree level in polymer processing and is the lead academic partner in the Polymer processing apprenticeship.

“We also have delegated authority up to PhD level for graduates in polymer so AIT are producing the highly skilled polymer engineers for the country. There’s great potential even at that to grow the polymer processing and manufacturing sector in the Midlands,” Dr Devine said. There is a strong manufacturing sector in the Midlands and it is one of the biggest employers locally and also the second biggest employer nationally (after hospitality and tourism).

The ECP4 is an industry-driven collaboration that unites members from top-level European research institutions, regional plastic clusters, and EU-level industrial organisations of plastics and composites converters. Its purpose is to facilitate the exchange of ideas between innovation partners for strong and high added-value proposals for EU-funded research and development projects with the aim of yielding industrial innovation to support economic growth and employment in the sector.

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