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Inaugural AMRC team member named Professor of Machining Practice and Chief Technical Officer

posted 6 Jan 2016, 01:59 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 6 Jan 2016, 01:59 ]
One of the founding researchers from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has been appointed Professor of Machining practice at the age of 41.

Sam Turner’s appointment comes not long after he was named the AMRC’s Chief Technical Officer.

Prof Turner said: “It’s a great honour and it comes at an exciting time when big opportunities are opening up around digital manufacturing.

“I see our Factory 2050 development as the UK flagship for digital manufacturing and my role as CTO as enabling and delivering high impact projects that change the UK’s manufacturing infrastructure and support the sector’s growth.

“I want to ensure the AMRC is recognised as the place to come to for state of the art manufacturing science, bringing new technology through the development pipeline that will improve productivity and help both existing companies and the start-ups that I believe will come out of the AMRC environment.”

Prof Turner joined the AMRC at its start, after studying Mechanical Engineering with French Language in Sheffield and Grenoble and gaining industrial experience with Thomas Turton & Sons, in Chesterfield, where he set up a new machine shop and modernised its heat treatment facilities.

He became the inaugural member of the AMRC machining group – which now numbers 85 people and has been a key contributor to the AMRC group’s growth into an organisation with 560 staff and a turnover approaching £50 million.

Prof Turner sees a key part of his role at the AMRC as ensuring its cutting edge research leads to tangible benefits for industry.

“I have always been passionate about the idea of advancing the state of the art by applying research and by using what we discover to solve problems,” says Prof Turner. 

“There is a risk of focussing too much on research without an end in mind. There is also a risk of just applying what you already know and not advancing that knowledge. Balancing the two has been a challenging priority for me for the last 15 years.

“A fundamental part of my new role will be making sure we get the right research, using the right technology to get the balance right and maintain the AMRC as the hub for machining and manufacturing research, working with the best companies, the best universities and the best staff.”

The Professor who bet his career on the AMRC’s success and has never looked back
Sam Turner’s interest in engineering began when he was a young child.
“I was always interested in science. I wanted to know how and why the physical and mechanical world worked,” he says.
“I liked building things and I was interested in studying engineering because it gave me the opportunity to apply science to solving real problems and that is something that has stayed with me to this day.”

Prof Turner came to Sheffield University to study Mechanical Engineering with French Language – a choice that opened the way for him to spend his third year in France at the Grenoble Institute of Technology.

His desire to apply what he had learnt to the real world led him to a post on a Teaching Company Scheme – now the Knowledge Transfer Partnership – with Thomas Turton & Sons, in Chesterfield.

Turton built Europe’s first integrated steel works, Sheaf Works, beside Sheffield’s Canal Basin. By the time Prof Turner joined Turton, the company was manufacturing spring steel, rail springs and edged tools for the construction industry.

“It was a fascinating experience, being part of something that was an old steel manufacturing business, but was in the twilight of its existence,” says Prof Turner, whose role involved developing improvement projects that maximised the capabilities of the machines and materials the company used. 

After building a new machine shop, to bring machining in house, and new heat treatment facilities, Prof Turner decided the time had come to broaden his experience, learn new skills and look for an opportunity to make better use of the science he had learnt at university.

He joined the manufacturing group, set up at the University of Sheffield by Prof Keith Ridgway CBE, who had been his supervisor on the Teaching Company Scheme and is now executive dean of the AMRC.
The manufacturing group was starting to build its contacts with aerospace giant Boeing and developing its expertise in machining when, with Boeing’s support,

Prof Ridgway and Adrian Allen OBE set up the AMRC.

“I suppose I bet my career on the AMRC,” says Prof Turner.

“If it had failed after three or four years, I would have been a graduate employee of the University, without a PhD and without having worked for any significant period in industry – which wasn’t a recognised career route!

“But, I got Keith and Adrian’s vision and it became mine, too. We genuinely believed we had the opportunity to build something phenomenal that would use the results from research to advance the state of the art and benefit UK industry.”

Prof Turner went to work for Boeing at the University of North Carolina for a year, returning to the AMRC as the first member of its machining group.

As if that was not enough, he had also begun working on a part time PhD in Titanium milling strategies and machining dynamics.

“I was doing machining trials for my PhD at 5am and then doing the ‘day job’ from 8am,” he recalls.

That research laid the foundations for the development of a major area of expertise at the AMRC, which has fuelled its growth and helped its partners radically improve their competitiveness and capabilities for processing new alloys vital to reducing the weight, noise and fuel consumption of aircraft.