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Automated Reconfigurable Panel Manufacture for Rapid Delivery of Low Volume Pressed Forms

Large metallic panels are used in a range of applications, from fuselage, wing or cowling skins for aircraft to architectural cladding. Traditional panel manufacturing processes such as die forming, mould shaping and fixture assembly require bespoke tooling that can result in high costs and long lead times. 

AUTOMAN addresses these challenges by offering a sophisticated, reconfigurable metal sheet forming process as an alternative to bespoke dedicated tooling, that produces high quality, 3D functional, complex and lightweight panels. The system features a matrix of digitally reconfigurable pins that can be quickly adjusted in height off the press form tool.


1. Reduced lead time for new product introduction:
  • No need to design and manufacture a new tool
  • Quick iterations of prototypes - days rather than weeks or months
2. Production of legacy components - no need to store legacy fixtures and tools:
  • Cost-effective
  • Space effective
  • Environmentally friendly
3. Supports prototype and small batch production
4. Supports demand-based manufacture
5. Possible integration with existing or new manufacturing processes

Industry applications

Industries that could benefit from a flexible panel manufacturing process include:

  • Architecture
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Railways
  • Marine
  • Material processing
The AUTOMAN system is a production-scale automated reconfigurable tooling system, which is particularly well-suited for prototyping and rapid processing of freeform customised panels in emerging lightweight alloys.

Demonstration panels have been successfully pressed at Whiston Industries Ltd in Birmingham, and the system is available to demonstrate industry specific applications.

Future scope

The AUTOMAN consortium are seeking partners for a bid to secure funding to further develop the AUTOMAN system.

Future potential development work includes:

  • Integration with other advanced manufacturing processes
  • Increased intelligent sensing
  • Production of larger panels
  • Integration with existing software packages
  • Transfer of the technology to an industry-specific application

If you would like to get involved and become part of the team driving this technology forward to commercialisation, please contact the AUTOMAN team at:

The project was led by UPM Ltd, with consortium members including the University of Birmingham, Loadpoint Ltd, MG Motor UK Ltd, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, the University of Strathclyde, and Whiston Industries Ltd.

The AUTOMAN project is supported by funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK.