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Confirm HQ: University of Limerick leading the way in fourth industrial revolution

In University of Limerick’s Digital District, a smart revolution is taking place and Confirm is at the centre of it. 

Confirm, the world-leading Science Foundation Ireland research centre in Smart Manufacturing which is hosted by UL at Park Point, has just completed the construction of a bespoke new dedicated Digital Manufacturing facility, supported to the tune of €3.1 million by UL.

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.

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.

 

Pictured are: UL President Professor Kerstin Mey, Professor Conor McCarthy and Eoin O'Connell. Picture credit: True Media

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.

“We work collaboratively with industry to pioneer research excellence to meet current and future smart manufacturing needs,” explains Director of Confirm Professor Conor McCarthy.  

“Confirm gives industry partners a competitive advantage by ensuring the right research team is working to drive business readiness for Industry 4.0. We have the experience working across multinationals and SMEs within diverse sectors including, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, chemical, nutrition and beverage, computer, electronic, optical and electrical equipment,” adds Professor McCarthy.

The new facility will be the centrepiece of Confirm’s research network and through a dedicated Community of Practice area, will link researchers, industry partners and the general public together to raise the profile of manufacturing in Ireland and internationally, Professor McCarthy explains.

“Confirm – Smart Manufacturing is a leading international centre for cyber-physical manufacturing systems research and digital supply chain,” he outlines. 

“We bring together a unique blend of leading scientists and engineers to carry out fundamental research to underpin the development of Ireland’s future factories and supply chains. This research also provides the foundation for industry applied research in the areas of smart products, machines, production systems and supply chains. 

“Confirm has built a world-class research facility in Limerick city and adjacent to UL, where we work closely with industry on future emerging smart manufacturing technologies, including collaborative robots, virtual reality training, predicative maintenance, smart data acquisition and wireless factories, to name but a few,” he added.

Welcoming the development of the cutting-edge facility, UL’s 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,” she added.
-  Alan Owens