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About UK Tribology

UK Tribology is a collaborative initiative of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) and the Institute of Physics (IOP), who between them represent the majority of engineers and scientists working in the field of Tribology in the UK.

Vision

UK Tribology seeks to provide a focus for Tribology in the UK by coordinating existing activities and identifying new initiatives.  The main aim of UK Tribology is therefore to reach out to decision-makers, business leaders, educators and the public, to promote the benefits of tribology in providing for a sustainable, low-carbon economy, competitive manufacturing and a better quality of life for all.

Mission statement

The Vision will be delivered by:

  • Developing a single voice for Tribology in the UK to influence Government.
  • Utilising the combined expertise and resources of our partner institutions and supporting organisations to provide a high-level strategic voice to articulate the solutions to the tribological challenges facing UK industry.
  • Promoting interdisciplinary networking and knowledge exchange between academia, industry, decision-makers and other stakeholders.
  • Coordinating and promoting events that will attract participation from communities that are not already aware of the benefits of tribology.
  • Coordinating and delivering an outreach programme with our partner institutions and supporting organisations to raise awareness of the importance of tribology amongst young people and others in education.
  • Providing a central web presence and portal for access to information, advice and news on tribology – www.uktribology.net

Background

UK Tribology aims to promote and develop the UK strengths in tribology for the benefit of society by advising and informing UK industry, government and educational establishments.  Tribology is a multidisciplinary subject that impacts on a very wide range of technologies and industries.  It includes subjects such as engineering materials, surface science and engineering, coatings, corrosion, biotribology, sensing and condition monitoring.

UKT seeks to help lessen the impact of human activity on the environment by developing energy saving and/or environmentally friendly surfaces or manufacturing processes that have unique beneficial qualities.  Manufacturing is a core area of interest to the UK Government as it seeks to stimulate a recovery from the economic crisis of 2008.  UK Tribology is relevant to a very wide spectrum of UK industry, schools, colleges and universities and to the next generation healthcare solutions.

Tribology and smarter surfaces are core to future transport and energy efficient machines, the control of emissions and low maintenance renewable energy systems as well as to health care and the bioengineering of replacement joints.  It is an essential enabling technology for nearly all UK industrial operations (which comprise 27% of UK GDP) and underpins innovation in the evolution to tiny-tech devices as well as matches the sector needs identified in the Government’s ‘A strategy for Materials’ report [1].

The importance of interfaces cannot be overestimated.  They play a vital role in technological applications as diverse as catalysis, microelectronics, lubrication, corrosion and in many environmental processes [2].

The UK surface engineering sector is worth >£30bn and needs to maintain competiveness.  Cost of corrosion to UK economy in 2007 estimated to be £36 bn pa.  Improved surfaces to control corrosion are estimated to be able realise £7 bn pa savings.  The application of tribological best practice is thought to be able to save up to 1.4% of GNP or £20 bn pa in the UK at 2007 rates.  Surfaces are also critical for long term patient mobility and health.  The correct understanding of bio-tribology and joint design can offer huge savings for the National Health Service (NHS) and impact on quality of life.  Current predictions suggest 268,000 total knee arthroplasty revisions will be required per annum in the US by 2030 compared to 38,000 now [3].  Growth predictions for knee revisions in the UK are thought to have similar trends, so adjusting for UK population differences and using £15k per revision, costs to the NHS would rise to £900m pa by 2030 based on today’s costs.  Extending joint life through improved tribological design would therefore allow enormous savings in surgery costs to the NHS as well as allowing patients to remain active and in employment, both of value to UK plc.

UK Tribology aims to help the UK to address issues associated with environmental impact, the sustainability of materials, cost reduction, improved technology, waste elimination, and fragmentation of research and industrial community [4].

The UK has a strong tribology and surface engineering base (both industrial and academic) but due to the fragmentation of activity within the UK between at least 4 learned societies (IMechE, IoM3, IoP and IET), the impact on reducing the cost of uncontrolled friction, lubrication, surface selection and wear control within industry has been limited.  Thus UK Tribology has a largely outward facing remit to reach as much of UK industry as possible to enable the uptake of best tribological practice.  It also has a core mission to engage effectively with schools, colleges and universities to ensure tribology is understood before students transfer to the workplace.

 

[1] A Strategy for Materials, Materials Innovation and Growth Team, DTi, March 2006. 

[2] Surfaces and interfaces, Helmer, M., Nature 437, No. 7059, September 2005. 

[3] Projections of primary and revision hip and knee arthroplasty in the United States from 2005 to 2030, Kurtz, S. et al., J Bone Joint Surg Am. 89, 2007, pp. 780-785. 

[4] Challenges and priorities for the UK Surface Engineering Industry, Materials KTN, 2010.