Case Studies

Welsh Slate Ltd

“Bangor University CPE team have invested significant time and resources into solving this problem by successfully implementing photonics and bespoke programming. Welsh Slate are looking forward to advancing the project further with Bangor University, with the aims of improving accuracy and implementing pattern recognition, ensuring the system will be able to run successfully in the production environment”

Dylan Evans (Project Engineer), Welsh Slate

Welsh Slate is the world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of high-quality slate for a peerless range of exterior and interior design applications. Uniquely 500 million years old, the material is widely recognized as the finest natural slate in the world. Operating in four locations in the UK, today, Welsh Slate continues to producing roofing slate, architectural products and aggregates while its export markets continue to grow.

The company has been interested in using photonics technology to improve and optimize their existing manufacturing processes, thus increasing productivity and reducing costs. This project aims to develop an demonstration prototype of Automated-Slate-Counting System (ASCS) for the company. This will be used to replace existing manual counting system, which is time-consuming, costly and prone to error. It is expected further project will continue after this project to explore the improvement and implementation of ASCS in the manufacturing line of Welsh Slate.

The slates being produced follow a rather complex packaging and manual counting which is tedious and time consuming task for hundreds of slates. Through CPE, a project was initiated by collaboration of Bangor University (BU) and Welsh Slate to develop a feasible solution for a quick and accurate counting of the slates. Initial research at BU led to the development of an automated counting program with capability of accurate counting of a packaging in few seconds only compared to several minutes in the previous practice.

Steam Bio

The feasibility study undertaken through CPE has enabled us to ensure with confidence the equipment and budget for the PV enabled power supply for our process developments to progress with our first stage pilot trials in Namibia. Subject to the success of these pilot trials we would be keen to work with the team again on identifying PV requirements as we scale up

Huw Parry (Managing Director), New Network Europe Ltd/ Steam Bio

New Network Europe Ltd/ Steam Bio is developing and deploying an innovative process using superheated steam processing to transform ligno-cellulosic agricultural and forestry residues into sustainable and flexible feedstock for biochemical and bioenergy use. The business development envisages deployment as a series of decentralised rural biorefineries.

A significant opportunity has arisen for this technology in Namibia and other areas of Southern Africa to turn a problem of encroaching bush into an indigenous source of clean burning biofuel and water. This is initially being progressed with an application to Innovate UK Energy 7 competition.

Working in collaboration with the CPE team at Aberystwyth and Glyndwr University an investigation has been undertaken on the feasibility of using PV solar panels to power the system and charge back storage batteries to offer 24/7 system operation.

Grafmarine Ltd

Working with the CPE team has assisted Grafmarine in re-evaluating its manufacturing processes using photonics technology, resulting in the delivery of improved product development, closer supply chain collaboration with SME suppliers in Wales and the realisation that innovation is a core strategy to our growth

Martin Leigh (Managing Director), Grafmarine

Grafmarine is a micro business established in the Optic building at St Asaph collaborating across multiple academic UK institutions, in an attempt to launch a new product innovation into the marine market. With the support of the CPE team at Bangor and USW they have been able to overcome the current technical constraints within their current manufacturing process and have embraced Photonics as a strong solutions provider.

As a result they are currently working with the CPE team at Bangor & USW on Laser welding applications, with potential industry trials due to commence in January 2020.

During the project CPE also enabled a cross-Welsh SME collaboration within their supply chain by introducing the company to a contact in south Wales offering improved solutions to previous supplier outside the EU.

Nutralight Ltd

Nutralight is an LED manufacturer specializing in smart lighting, sensing and control solutions for the horticultural market. Smart horticultural lighting is a vastly growing market and is integral to the self-sustaining vertical farms that are set to revolutionize the horticulture industry.

CPE partners USW and Wrexham Glyndwr University are both working with Nutralight to build and develop a prototype luminaire for growing small plants such as strawberries or microgreens. The project also involves optical modelling of a bespoke reflector design and the final work package will investigate options for productionisation.