Uncovering technology at the Manufacturing Technology Centre
Meat Management recently toured the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), where industry can receive assistance in making their technological ideas materialise.
Touring the MTC amongst a select group of meat manufacturers and industry representatives, Meat Management heard how the centre in Coventry works in partnership with industry on everything from 3D printing to using automated robotic systems.
Tasked with boosting wealth for the UK’s GDP, as well as value in the supply chain, MTC acts a bridge over the gap between technology that comes out of academia and the manufacturing industry itself – what is referred to as ‘the valley of death’.
A vast number of ideas that could change the face of manufacturing never make it to the real world; and this is where MTC comes to the picture. Whether an idea is ready to be exploited by industry or not is estimated by Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), a measurement invented by NASA, a scale from one to nine. MTC focuses on TRL four, five and six – where the notorious ‘valley of death’ sits.
“To give you an idea, TLR one is an idea on a piece of paper and TLR nine mean it’s ready to buy off the shelf,” Matthew Rayment, food, beverage and fast-moving goods (FMG) sector lead for MTC, explains.
“If you ask us about a challenge and we know where it is, we tell you where to go get it. So the whole point of MTC is to make these connections.”
Although food is not the biggest focus for MTC, the technology transfer that takes place at the centre can still prove quite beneficial for food companies.
“This is really where MTC is quite effective,” Rayment notes. “Because we do R&D and commercial projects in all these sectors, I can hear about what goes on in all of them, so I try and pull all these technologies across to food.”
Moving on to the actual tour, Rayment demonstrated to Meat Management how 3D printing applications can help provide solutions for food manufacturers, as well as how robotics can change the face of the food and meat manufacturing industry in the future.
Leading on from theory to practice, attendees were also given a presentation by Residual Barrier Technology (RBT), which works with the centre on its misting solution for disinfection and sanitation.
Its core technology, called ProtectUs Viridis, can be reportedly be applied to a range of environments as a disruptive solution, effecting a total protective disinfection in food environments.
As part of what it calls its “full 360o solution”, RBT has des developed a misting system that creates droplets between 4 and 20 µm, producing a ‘dry mist’. This is said to enable its ProtectUs solutions to reach every available surface in the room, while leaving behind a protective residual barrier that is effective for up to 24 hours on high traffic surfaces and over seven days on untouched areas.
We were also then shown exactly how that technology works, by watching the misting process live in one of MTC’s buildings.
With one operator in the room, the ‘dry mist’ filled it producing a thick fog, while RBT representatives explained how it worked; a few minutes later, the fog was gone and the operator emerged from it safe and sound.