Knowledge Transfer Partnership Case Study: Craven Dunnill Jackfield

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The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. A recent graduate is placed within an organisation to help solve a business problem, with access to our academic expertise.

The below case study is from our KTP with Craven Dunnill Jackfield:

About Craven Dunnill Jackfield

Craven Dunnill & Co Ltd is a historic business, founded in 1872. It has been producing ceramic wall and floor tiles for 150 years and is the oldest surviving purpose-built tile factory in the world. It is part of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site at the heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution

The challenge the KTP was set up to address

Each individual project requires the application of ceramic modelling skills to create new working models and moulds for the restoration of architectural features and to interpret the complex three-dimensional shape of the item beneath the glaze layers of an original sample.

This is a highly skilled art, and ceramic modellers with this ability are few in number and expensive to employ. Across the industry modellers with the necessary hand skills are reaching retirement age and are difficult to replace which will significantly impact the future sustainability of the sector. The situation is a major bottleneck in the production process and limits the ability of the company to expand this part of the business.

The application of 3D technologies, specifically 3D scanning to derive the surface shape of the original ceramic pieces and 3D CAD to recreate the aesthetic of the original work, combined the CNC milling can be used to produce master models and moulds for the reproductions.

Why was a KTP the right mechanism to achieve this?

The KTP allowed us to test machinery and processes at the University in a way that would have been time consuming and expensive to achieve without the partnership. The CFPR’s knowledge of both ceramics and digital manufacturing technology were a perfect fit for Craven Dunnill’s needs. There are limited organisations with the knowledge of both subjects. Years of research from university staff fed into the project and allowed us to address the problems which arose when combining the traditional hand craft process with digital technology.

How did the KTP meet the need (the activities / solution)?

By utilising the expertise offered from the University, new technology was brought in to improve lead times and open new areas of business, specifically in 3D scanning. The development budget provided opportunities for learning new skills which were applied to the project.

Outcome – Impacts & Benefits

What changed as a result of the KTP?

Craven Dunnill invested in a CNC milling machine and a 3D scanner, both of which were required to embed digital design into their traditional mould making process. Moulds, tiles and artworks can be 3D scanned and manipu- lated to produce new block moulds, the block can be directly plaster cast from, saving time and cost.

As well as being utilised for mould making, CAD now plays a role in the initial contact with customers. Vector drawings and 3D models are used to visualise end products, before we commit to producing physical models.

Layouts for wall and floor tile are designed within Rhinoceros3D. This allows for tiles to be automatically counted and layout issues to be resolved before committing resources to a project.

Broad benefits and impacts for all partners, (including economic, environ- mental and/or social perspective)

For CDJ:

Having the 3D capabilities in house has opened up the possibilities of additional revenue streams. Many projects can now be completed in house.

For UWE Bristol:

The Centre for Fine Print Research has a strategic objective and a long history of collab- orating with industry that constitutes around a third of its research.

The success of the KTP with Craven Dunnill Jackfield will add to the Centre’s reputation for combining traditional methods with modern digital technologies both in academia and commercially.

The project validates this research and highlights the value of this method.

The initial concept used was based on an Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) project conducted in the early 2000’s and the development of these ideas into a successful industrial outcome is likely to generate further research questions for investigation.

It demonstrates how embedding digital technologies into traditional processes can generate benefits for both of the partners.

For the KTP associate

As the KTP associate, I am very pleased with how the project concluded. KTP has opened doors for me and given me the opportunity to develop as a project manager. I have attended multiple courses and conferences over the project, developing both my key skillset (CAD/3D Design) and other elements which will improve my efficiency at work such as Finance/ management/business.

Quantifiable benefits (the numbers bit!)

  • Improved product development time by 72% (From 2 weeks of model making, down to 4 days)
  • Reduced development costs on specific projects by up to 79% (Based on price of model board compared to traditional block and casing)

What the partners are saying?

“Through a challenging time for businesses, the KTP programme has been a true shining light, surpassing our expectations as a Company. It is critical for a 150yr old Company like ours to stay dynamic and explore ways in which new technologies can support and compliment traditional craftmanship. The KTP has brilliantly highlighted the way in which business and academia can come together to develop new capabilities and embed them into our operations. ”

Simon Howells, Managing Director, Craven Dunnill Group

“The Craven Dunnill Jackfield, CFPR/UWE KTP project shows that a committed Company and Academic team combined with an excellent, dedicated Associate can overcome the difficulties and adversities of operating during a pandemic to drive through to success. The project has been very successful and has exceeded the expectations of both partners.“

David Huson Senior Research Fellow, UWE Bristol

“The KTP program has been the most exciting part of my working life to date. It has given me the opportunity to develop my skills and interests within 3D design and technology, whilst allowing me the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge developed during my degree. “

Jed Leonard-Hammerman, 3D Technologies Specialist Craven Dunnill Jackfield

“This project could not have been done without the unusually wide skill set of the Associate who was equally at home in the application of complex digital technology and the practical traditional skills required to manufacture three dimensional tiles together with the support of his academic and company supervisors”

Russ Bromley Knowledge Transfer Adviser