The Virtual Engineering Centre join up with Heap & Partners to win Collaboration Award

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The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) and Heap and Partners are thrilled to have been recognised by Insider at the Made in the North West awards ceremony for their innovative collaboration, adopting digital tools to enhance manufacturing productivity.


The Virtual Engineering Centre and traditional valve manufacturer, Heap and Partners teamed up via the LCR 4.0 Project, an ERDF funded initiative which supports manufacturing SMEs within the Liverpool City Region in realising the potential to adopt new and emerging digital technologies to improve their processes and increase productivity levels.


Lead project partner, the Virtual Engineering Centre used their expertise and specialist skills to help Heap and Partners to explore the best solutions for their business to remain competitive.


The Virtual Engineering Centre and Science Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre saw an opportunity to pair technologies and co-develop the project, as they investigated the use of Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) for one of their valve components and the use of an Augmented Reality (AR) app in order to explore the internal workings of the company’s valve designs.


Campus Technology Hub (CTH), a facility within STFC, worked closely with Heap and Partner’s in-house design team to review and prepare an existing computer-aided design (CAD) of a large valve assembly for use in 3D printing. CTH defined moving parts and functionality of the 3D print, eventually creating a scaled down 3D printed prototype, which was still one of the largest 3D prints produced by Campus Technology Hub.


The Virtual Engineering Centre produced an iOS based AR program using industry standard tools, based upon a CAD drawing data supplied by Heap and Partners, which act as a companion technology to the 3D printed valve. The adoption of this technology allows Heap and Partners to showcase and demonstrate their valve products to customers and investors with ease. . Ongoing application of this digital technology through product design, prototyping, manufacture and product maintenance will continue to increase productivity in all areas of the business.


This project demonstrates how an existing asset and skill set can be complimented quickly and easily by the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies.


Within a few days of the project completion, Heap and Partners showcased the AR application at a trade event in Aberdeen and have also invested in a 3D printer which is to be used to undertake both development work and fulfil orders including rapid prototyping, demonstrating long term innovation and sustainability.


Andrew Borland, Commercialisation Manager for the VEC was thrilled to accept the award:

“This collaboration led to a very exciting project. Heap and Partners are such an innovative company, they were a pleasure to work with, eager to explore digital opportunities for their business to remain competitive within industry whilst enhancing their customer experience.”


Click here for the downloadable case study.

Click here for the case study video.