Games visitors can see 21st century manufacturing in action


Visitors to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are being given the chance to witness the latest in high-tech manufacturing, thanks to an innovative scheme by the Manufacturing Technology Centre and the University of Birmingham.

The university and the MTC have combined to enthuse Games visitors with the latest exciting developments in manufacturing with a specially developed augmented reality experience.

Visitors can access the technology on smartphones and tablets via QR code on display in the Aston Webb Building. This is part of a wider exhibition, A History Through Objects, which explores research and innovation at the University of Birmingham.

Clicking on the QR code will take them into an augmented reality world which demonstrates how factories and industrial spaces can be developed digitally before a penny is spent on manufacturing equipment. Using a software programme called Vuforia, developed by global manufacturing software solution provider and MTC member company PTC, users can experience a 21st century manufacturing environment in a virtual world.

The MTC’s business lead on informatics Stuart McLeod said the Games presented a valuable opportunity to enthuse people with the world of modern manufacturing, a field in which the West Midlands excels.

“Using a programme developed at the MTC with software from PTC we are able to let people walk through a manufacturing facility, plan the layout and design machines. It showcases the enormous advances being made in digital manufacturing and presents it in an engaging and exciting way,” he said.

David Hughes, director of solutions consulting at PTC, said many people didn’t realise the extent to which digital technologies have transformed manufacturing processes and practices.

“Augmented reality is a highly visual, interactive method of presenting digital information in the context of a physical environment. It gives users the power to design, plan and interact with facilities while meeting the challenges of capability, practicality, safety, maintenance needs and ergonomics – all of this before money is actually spent on the physical requirements to make it happen,” he said.

The programme used for the Commonwealth Games demonstration was developed in the MTC’s innovative “Factory in a Box” which shows businesses how they can grow through the adoption of smart manufacturing techniques and processes.

Developed by the Coventry-based MTC working alongside the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University and a team of industrial partners, the Factory in a Box is an industrial scale demonstrator, showcasing how advanced industrial digital technologies can benefit manufacturers and their supply chains. The FIAB concept creates intelligent factories that can be globally distributed but centrally controlled to provide point of need, deployable and flexible manufacturing capacity.

The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.

The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.