The first-ever manufacturing ‘cyber-seed’ – which grows just like a plant and produces innovative designs for products ranging from aircraft parts to medical devices – is being designed by researchers.
The cyber-seed will allow scientists to generate new products – suited to the local environment with the materials available – at the tap of a button from anywhere in the world.
The team, which includes researchers from the University of York, Queen’s University Belfast, and Loughborough University, have been awarded £7.3 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the ‘RIED’ (Re-Imagining Engineering Design) project.
Having been previously conceptualised by researchers, the funding will help bring the ‘cyber-seed’ to life.
The new research could transform how design and manufacturing organisations work, while also making manufacturing more accessible to many sectors.
The cyber seed is made up of ‘genes’: simple text descriptions of a product’s design characteristics, such as size, colour and density. The genes are read by special software which then links up with a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) system to create 3D design models.
Innovatively, the ‘cyber-seed’ assesses the local environment and adapts the end product to meet the needs of the user in that area, using materials available at the location. This can be done virtually, meaning a product can be created by someone in an entirely different part of the world at the tap of a button.
Professor Andy Tyrrell, Head of York’s Department of Electronic Engineering, said “This exciting new project continues the work we have been doing in the Department: taking inspiration from natural systems and adapting it to engineering systems and components.”
“In particular, the group at York will be focusing on the evolution of the cyber-seeds that will ultimately grow to form innovative designs. This project will move our work to the next level with strong industrial partnerships, working with Queen’s and Loughborough universities.”