The Materials Advanced Characterisation Centre (MACH1) - Kennametal Case Study

The Materials Advanced Characterisation Centre (MACH1) is one of the College of Engineering’s research groups that is based within the Engineering Manufacturing Centre (EMC) at Swansea University’s new Science and Innovation Bay Campus.

The Engineering Manufacturing Centre, along with the Swansea Bay Innovation Hub, has been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

WEFO ERDF logoThe MACH1 centre has been funded through the ERDF A4B programme and aims to support Welsh advanced manufacturing industry by providing high throughput technologies for materials characterisation, materials selection and analysis, to establish itself as a worldwide recognised centre.

MACH1 has worked with a variety of industry partners, including Kennametal, based in Newport.

The collaborative research with Kennametal included conducting materials analysis of a key component within a plasma thruster cell. The cell, which is part of a new satellite engine, is being manufactured by Kennametal for Snecma, a multinational aircraft and rocket manufacturer and subsidiary of Safran Group.  

MACH1 Kennametal Case study 2

The plasma thrusters and propulsion systems have been developed to have an increased lifespan which will help increase the usable life of geostationary satellites, while in turn extending time periods for expensive satellite replacement. Due to the aggressive environment in which the thruster operates, it was important to determine several key thermo-physical characteristics.

The MACH1 researchers investigated and verified these parameters in order to confirm the components reliability for space operation. The completion of such a wide range of analysis is normally only accessible via the use of several facilities, but by working with MACH1, the research was completed at one location.

This resulted in comprehensive and accurate data being available within tight timeframes. The information and analysis work conducted will provide engineers and researchers with the detail required to identify other applications in the aerospace field.

MACH1 Kennametal Case study

Mike Williams, Plant Manager Newport, from Kennametal said “Working collaboratively with MACH1 has proved invaluable in analysing our material for this exciting application. We have strengthened our links with the MACH1 project by funding research and expansion over the next 12 months. It is our anticipation that further collaborative research on different ceramic materials can be initiated with the support from Swansea University and the ERDF A4B programme.”

Professor Steve Brown, Deputy Director of MACH1, said “We were very excited to collaborate with Kennametal on this project. This is an excellent demonstration of the use of advanced characterisation techniques applied to the analysis of existing high-performance materials. It also lays the foundation for the discovery and exploitation of exciting new materials with Kennametal in the future.”

The College of EngineeringSwansea University continues to maintain its position as one of the top universities in the UK for Engineering. 

The Bay Campus’ extensive Engineering Quarter is designed to capitalise on the College of Engineering’s research expertise and its collaboration with major companies, including Rolls-Royce and Tata Steel. 

The Engineering Quarter features purpose built facilities for students, staff and businesses, allowing for the benefits of co-location, enabling applied research, an accelerated innovation pathway and employment opportunities. Learn more here. 


Pictures: 1 & 2: Kennametal case study - application of thrusters in a satellite.