10 Professor Liam Blunt

Surface measurement – improving products and boosting sales

The surface micro-structure of a product affects its performance, quality and service life. Measurement and characterisation can reveal a complex surface structure – often the result of the manufacturing process. Research carried out by the Centre for Precision Technologies (CPT) focuses on improving this measurement process to further understand surface roughness and allow for the manufacturing of superior products.

Launching a collaborative project

In 1998, Professor Liam Blunt of the CPT coordinated the launch of SURFSTAND – an 11-partner EU Framework project. The principal aim was to form the base for a new set of international standards by developing mathematical analytical techniques for characterising the topography of engineering surfaces.

The project demonstrated that characterising surface roughness could influence engine emissions, sheet pressing processes and quality control. These findings were particularly relevant to companies in the automotive, steel production and bio-implant industries including Volkswagen, Volvo, SKF, DePuy, Johnson & Johnson and Taylor Hobson.

Revolutionary measurement and characterisation software

New surface topography characterisation tools have been developed as a result of the SURFSTAND project, leading to a new software package known by the same name. This software allows multiple data formats to be viewed, filtered and numerically characterised. It is the first piece of software to allow for the characterisation of free-form geometry, and the first in surface metrology to deliver wavelet filters for multi-scale analysis.

Forming an industry partnership

In 2011, world-leading metrology company Ametek Taylor Hobson formed a collaboration contract with the CPT to integrate the SURFSTAND software into an existing component-based software package that supports Ametek Taylor Hobson’s range of metrology instrumentation.This improvement in software provision has led to increased sales and helped the company to maintain its position in the competitive market of smartphone lenses and automotive bearing surfaces.

The company established the Huddersfield, Taylor Hobson Chair in Surface Metrology first held by Professor Blunt and now held by Professor Paul Scott. The relationship between the CPT and Ametek Taylor Hobson has since strengthened with two of the SURFSTAND Research Fellows now employed by the company to lead on software development and facilitate further knowledge exchange between the CPT and their industry partner.

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