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UL-hosted Confirm research centre launches ‘fantastic’ new digital manufacturing facility

Fri, 11 Dec 2020

The University of Limerick-hosted Confirm research Centre has launched a brand new digital manufacturing facility, supported by a €3.1m investment by UL.

Confirm, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre in Smart Manufacturing hosted by UL, launched its new headquarters this Friday.

A virtual launch of the bespoke 1,619 m2 Digital Manufacturing facility, located within the University of Limerick Digital District at Park Point, was attended by Director of Confirm Professor Conor McCarthy, UL President Professor Kerstin Mey, UL Vice President for Research (VPR) Professor Norelee Kennedy and Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, sent a video message to congratulate Confirm on opening the new facility.

“The opening of the Confirm SFI Research Centre’s new digital HQ provides an important hub for digital and smart manufacturing in Ireland, which will support the transformation of industry through excellent research, providing for our future skills needs in this important sector and enabling the general public to see the future of manufacturing,” said Minister Harris. 

“The Centre extends far beyond its fantastic new facility through its partnership across the higher education institutions and its significant industry and international collaborations. I wish the Centre every success in the future,” he added.

The Confirm Centre hosts 130 researchers, 12 operational and management staff with more to follow and its new facilities are futuristic – a large test-bed to house Ireland’s future factory demonstrators, an 8 metre diameter Virtual Reality Cave, 10Gbyte internet access, the first 5G Digital Manufacturing Network in Ireland, and a Digital Manufacturing lab to include metal, plastic and electronic printing and non-contact 3D part scanning.

Speaking at the virtual launch, Director of Confirm Professor Conor McCarthy said he was “delighted to open Confirm Centre Headquarters today”.

“Confirm HQ is our brand-new digital manufacturing research facility located at University of Limerick’s Digital District and at the gates of Limerick city. Confirm is an SFI-Industry funded centre for Cyber-Physical Manufacturing systems and digital supply chain research. Confirm is essentially about helping industry make the right manufacturing decisions by developing new technologies based on fundamental manufacturing science principles, thus leading to major economic, societal and environmental impact.

“Confirm HQ is designed around this theme, and we brought together the best elements of both national and international manufacturing centres of excellence to result in a truly world-class research facility to support Ireland in its journey to become a leading digital manufacturing powerhouse globally.

“Confirm HQ houses the i4 Experience, a full 3D immersive Industry 4.0 museum, and a private 5G internal network, both the first in Ireland. It hosts major industry and academic partners to carry out research in digital manufacturing production tools, including a major robotics suite; it hosts our community of practice area, a 100- seater venue designed to bring the public, industry and academia together to help encourage more young people and women into this exciting and, given it is Ireland’s second largest employer, important field.

“Finally, and most importantly, it hosts over 70 researchers and research management staff. I look forward to meeting you in 2021, where we aim to have our Confirm HQ Physical launch, where you will be able to experience first-hand the major advances in Smart Manufacturing,” added Professor McCarthy.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said: “Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, industry was very cognisant of the importance of research impact. The past period has shown that the sharing of knowledge and insights across disciplines and geographic boundaries can be of huge benefit to a community as a whole.

“During this time, CONFIRM completed and created a new dynamic space to highlight the value of collaboration and sharing of expertise, facilities and connectivity in smart manufacturing.

“UL and its hosting of CONFIRM is leading the way in the fourth industrial revolution and therefore amplifying its strength in research. The figures are there to support the importance of the manufacturing sector in Ireland with 4,000 manufacturing enterprises contributing €112 billion in exports and employing 440,000 directly and indirectly.

“In support of that, the new bespoke facility will see the development of smart innovations at CONFIRM and subsequently increase competitiveness for those engaged in the sector. 

“The CONFIRM HQ will enable research to develop future smart manufacturing technologies, build on the talent within our community and the engaged public to change the perception of manufacturing in Ireland and therefore allow for a community of practice to embrace the 4th Industrial revolution together.

“This is a very exciting time for CONFIRM, UL and impactful development research as a whole,” Professor Mey added.

The manufacturing sector is the second largest employer in Ireland, accounting for around €110 billion in exports. Smart manufacturing optimises production systems by adding intelligence through enhanced information technology.

This new technology will be at the heart of the factories of the future, increasing product line adaptability, enabling real-time decision-making, shortening supply-chains, and speeding up the development of new innovations to produce higher-quality goods at reduced costs across all industry sectors.

Confirm’s vision is to fundamentally transform industry to a Smart Manufacturing ecosystem by integrating intelligence within products, machines, production systems and supply chains.

To achieve this vision, it has set out on a mission to carry out world leading digital manufacturing research to develop future Smart Manufacturing technologies; to develop a community of practice to embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution together as a nation; to develop talent and an engaged public to drive a positive perception of manufacturing in Ireland, and to help create the next wave of future manufacturing talent to underpin industry and also to look at internationalisation as part of its growth strategy.

Since launching in 2017, Confirm has an extensive researcher network that spans nine Irish Higher Education Institutes led by UL and has secured €47 million in research from Industry, government and from non-exchequer sources.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said: “I am delighted to participate in today’s virtual launch of the bespoke digital manufacturing facility at University of Limerick which provides the headquarters for the Confirm SFI Research Centre.  This facility will provide the hub for delivering excellent research, developing future talent through vital training, and supporting industry by providing access to expertise in the area of smart and digital manufacturing. I congratulate everyone involved at the University of Limerick in establishing this critical national facility.”

UL Vice President for Research Professor Norelee Kennedy said “the hosting of Confirm builds on the University of Limerick’s long history of involvement in manufacturing by bringing together the various aspects of manufacturing research, education and industry engagement.

“In recognition of the importance of Confirm to the University over €3.1 million in funding has been allocated to support the development of Confirm HQ as well as the creation of a number of academic posts to support its ambitions. Confirm, with its unique focus on cyber physical manufacturing, allows for the development of new areas of discovery that further builds on UL’s strengths including mathematics, robotics, health and materials.

“We are delighted to host the centre and to work with our colleagues internationally, nationally and in the Mid-West to ensure Confirm becomes a global leader in the field of smart manufacturing and that it delivers cutting edge research in the field of manufacturing,” Professor Kennedy added.