A groundbreaking manufacturing technique which could boost the West Midlands' economy by tens of millions of pounds has been developed by the University of Birmingham and Advantage West Midlands.
The technique of hot isostatic processing (known as HIPping) enables manufacturers to make complex components directly from powder.
This includes titanium, nickel alloys and more exotic materials such as metal matrix composites and will be used extensively in aerospace, automotive and medical technologies.
The powder is filled into a mould and subjected to heat and pressure, the result being a component that is the exact shape and size, leading to significant cost saving and flexibility in the design of each item.
The £1 million project received £500,000 from Advantage West Midlands and continues until next year.
The facility, based at the Net Shape Manufacturing Laboratory at the University of Birmingham, is currently working with a number of West Midlands supply chain companies to help them adopt the process.
It is estimated the long-term benefit to the economy could be tens of millions of pounds as West Midlands manufacturers take on the innovative technology which will make them more competitive.
The project is part of AWM's Advanced Materials Strategy which is aiming to position the region as the UK leader for developing and adopting groundbreaking materials processes.
The advanced materials industry, estimated to be worth more than £5 billion to the West Midlands' economy, is vital to the future of the aerospace, automotive and medical technologies sector.
Ivan Buckley, AWM advanced materials strategy manager, said: "Currently the West Midlands is an importer of skills and know-how in terms of the materials that will be used to shape future technologies.
"This is a situation AWM is committed to changing and the HIPping project is one of the ways we are supporting regional manufacturing to stay at the leading edge of manufacturing.
"Birmingham is already home to Materials Solutions - the national nano-materials applications centre funded by AWM and the DTI - and the strategy for advanced materials aims to make our region a leader in development and technology transfer."
Project leader Professor Xinhua Wu said: "The main aim of the project is to build up manufacturing capability in the West Midlands using net shape HIPping technology and to transfer this technology from the labs at the University of Birmingham into commercial production.
"As a result, regional supply chain companies are able to supply to Rolls-Royce and other major multi-national companies with an obvious impact on the economy of the West Midlands."