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Cranfield launches hi-tech vehicle health research facility

Cranfield University has officially opened a multi-million pound IVHM Centre (Integrated Vehicle Health Management Centre), to lead revolutionary research in vehicle condition monitoring and management for aircraft, ships, high-speed trains, high-performance cars and energy applications.  

David Evans, Director of Innovation and Board Member in the Department of Innovations, Universities and Skills, opened the Centre at an evening ceremony yesterday, attended by guests from industry including current IVHM project partners Boeing, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Meggitt PLC. A new partnership with electronic contractors, ThalesUK, was finalised just last week.  

Guests took a tour of the new facility and heard from IVHM partners Sir Roger Bone from The Boeing Company and East of England Development Agency (EEDA) Board Member Marco Cereste about their involvement in the project.  

The Centre – jointly funded by the East of England Development Agency – will now become home to this developing field of research which aims to advance existing concepts of vehicle management, offering a total health check for high-tech, high-value assets.  

IVHM works through a network of sensors that are distributed on the vehicle. Each sensor collects data on the condition of the vehicle's components and subsystems. This data is then read by on-board processors which, through complex algorithms, assess the vehicle's health, predicts its future life and any possible deterioration.  

It is hoped that the results can be used to avoid potential component malfunctions, reduce operating costs, increase competitiveness and allow companies to assess the effectiveness of their fleets.  

BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Thales UK and Meggitt PLC have each committed £1 million over five years to IVHM research jointly launched by Cranfield University and The Boeing Company in late 2007. The world-class facility is also benefiting from a £3 million investment from EEDA and £500,000 from EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) money in conjunction with Cranfield's PSS (Product Service Solutions) project.  

Last night's event saw eight different demonstrations showcasing examples of IVHM. These included sensors being inserted into a GEM 42 helicopter engine and monitoring an oil rig in the North Sea.    

"The launch of the IVHM Centre represents a major step forward to boost this new and fast growing area of technology", said Mr Evans. "I expect that the team's research will have a major impact on the future development and service of complex vehicles like aircraft and racing cars and I can't wait to return here to see the progress."  

Professor Clifford Friend, Cranfield University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: "BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Thales UK and Meggitt PLC are the latest partners to join Cranfield and Boeing in bringing investment into this area of research. But after tonight's event I expect there will be further interest and collaboration.  

"This multi-sector initiative, embracing aerospace, automotive, rail, marine and energy will improve the understanding of a vehicles condition and hence provide innovative approaches to maintenance and service-based industry challenges."  

Press release issued by Cranfield University Aerospace on November 7, 2008


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