New Engineering and Design Facility

A first look inside the facility

Our civil and coastal engineering students gained unique access to visit the Babbage Building construction site as part of a their second-year module on Construction Management.
Not only did the in-depth tour of the building development provide our students with the opportunity to experience a real working construction site, but it also offered them a sneak-peak into what will become their exciting new learning environment.
Engineering students visiting the Babbage Building site
Civil engineering students taking a selfie on a visit to the Babbage building construction site
Engineering students visiting the Babbage Building site

After being on the site visit today, I really hope it promotes the University of Plymouth to everyone around, including all the women and young girls out there that may be afraid to go into the industry. It might help them to realise that it's accessible to everyone.

Frances Burdett
Second-year MEng (Hons) Civil and Coastal Engineering student

My first impression of the Babbage site is how big the building is, how big the scale is, and all the new facilities the University is going to be putting in it. It's really exciting. It's all really high-tech equipment that they're going to be housing in here.

Ely Coleman
Second-year BEng (Hons) Civil and Coastal Engineering student

This place is going to be an absolute home for me. I'm going to be able to come in here, do my dissertation, and learn more from the excellent professors that we have here. Currently, the facilities are all so excellent, but this is the next step forward.

Sam Medlyn
Second-year BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering student

A great collaborative space

BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design student Lily shows us how the new Metal Fabrication facility will enhance and enrich her practice.
“It will be a great collaborative space between all the different design disciplines including engineering.”

We can solve problems when disciplines come together

Housing contemporary specialist equipment and laboratories, this facility will bring engineering, science and the arts together, enabling holistic and creative approaches to problem-solving to address some of the world’s biggest issues, such as climate change and healthcare.
Through exemplary social, research and teaching spaces, it will facilitate a new depth of collaboration across related subject areas, facilitating brilliant minds coming together and solving real-world issues.
Visual concept of the Babbage Building

STEAM Laboratories

Through experimentation, observation, and analysis, the STEAM Laboratories will be active learning spaces for groups of students to work together and learn the fundamental principles of:
  • engineering science
  • structures
  • fluid mechanics
  • and materials testing
These labs will be equipped with a diverse range of experimental resources designed to encourage an inquiry-based pedagogy, giving students autonomy over their learning.  

DigiFab Laboratory

The DigiFab Laboratory will offer engineering students a hands-on introduction to digitally driven manufacturing processes, enabling them to fabricate functionally robust components from a range of thermoplastic materials.
This lab will complement the manufacturing processes available in the Precision Manufacturing Laboratory. Together, these labs will provide students with the ability to fabricate engineering components to a high level of precision for use in other specialist and experimental labs in Babbage Building. 

Immersive Visualisation Suite

The Immersive Visualisation Suite will feature a hybrid, virtual reality enabled visualisation system that will support a diversity of users from across the University and the wider industrial community.
Three large high-definition display panels will enable simultaneous viewing of both 2D and 3D data and information. Small groups of people will be able to immerse themselves in the middle of the data through a free-roving virtual / augmented reality experience.
This lab will be integrated with other campus facilities and act as a hub for the mutual exchange of live data. 

Heavy Structures and Geotechnics Laboratory

The Heavy Structures Laboratory will provide engineering students with a hands-on experience of the structural testing of large engineering components, fabricated from a range of engineering materials.
Equipped with both universal test machines and configurable reaction frames, students will be able to evaluate the behavioural response of a diverse range of engineering components to externally applied static and dynamic loads.
The data collected from these experiments will enable scientific theory and numerical simulation to be compared with the realities of observed operational behaviour.

Materials Analysis and Characterisation Laboratory

The Materials Analysis and Characterisation Laboratory will provide engineering students with a hands-on experience of materials characterisation and analysis techniques using industry standard equipment and testing methods.
This lab will allow students to learn about the micro-structure of technical materials and understand its influence on the overall mechanical properties of the material, which are measured through standardised coupon and small component testing.

Composites Engineering Laboratory

The Composites Engineering Laboratory will provide engineering students with a hands-on experience of manufacturing and evaluating engineering components with thermoset composite materials using industry standard equipment and testing methods.
This lab will also provide a facility for the development of novel composite materials and small-scale components for student projects and research purposes.

Autonomous Systems Test Laboratory

The Autonomous Systems Test Laboratory will support teaching, learning and research in robotic vehicles and control systems.
This lab will support students to operate and evaluate individual robotic systems working under remote control or autonomously, or several robotic systems operating simultaneously as a single integrated autonomous system.
This will be integrated with other campus facilities, such as the Immersive Visualisation Suite, by the mutual exchange of live data.

Energy and Sustainability Laboratory

The Energy and Sustainability Laboratory will provide engineering students with hands-on experience of experimentation and analysis in thermodynamics and fluid mechanics using modern laboratory equipment, instrumentation, and data capture techniques.
A 180kph sub-sonic wind tunnel, rolling road dynamometer, and numerous other test rigs will allow students to evaluate several different engineering systems and then compare scientific theory and numerical simulation with the realities of observed operational behaviour.

Engineering Computing Laboratories

The Engineering Computing Laboratories will provide engineering students with access to specialist software for Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE).
This lab will enable engineering students to develop essential digital design skills, as well as an understanding of physics-based, numerical simulation software. Mastery of these tools will enhance students academically, as well as greatly improving their professional employment prospects.

Precision Manufacturing Laboratory

The Precision Manufacturing Laboratory will provide engineering students with a hands-on introduction to manufacturing processes and enable them to fabricate components in a range of engineering materials using forming, shaping, joining and machining processes.
Students will have direct access to Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machines, tools and support from our skilled manufacturing technicians. This will enable students to fabricate engineering components to a high level of precision for use in other specialist and experimental labs in Babbage Building.

Nanomaterials and Devices Laboratory

The Nanomaterials & Devices Laboratory will provide a ‘clean room’ based laboratory for leading edge research in nano-spintronics, computer memory and data storage technology, nano-functional materials, and biosensors.
This lab includes a range of thin film deposition, micro fabrication facilities, and magneto-transport as well as nano-scale metrological characterisation instrumentations.
This lab will be fully equipped for the exploration of leading-edge science and technology, with a wide range of applications in sectors such as communications, defence, aerospace, security, and photonic surgery to medical and analytical instrumentation. 

Digital Design Fabrication

Blending modern digital design fabrication processes with traditional manufacturing techniques, our Digital Fabrication facility will offer students the chance to get hands-on with different materials and techniques.
For example, a CAD-CAM suite with high-spec computers, digital scanning facilities, laser cutters and CNC routers and milling machines. Our expert technicians have a wealth of industry experience and offer advice and support to students when developing projects, from concept to final outcome.
As specialists, they help students to build their knowledge of professional design manufacturing processes and broaden their skillset and employability which is vital for employment in professional practices.

Wood Fabrication

Our specialist open-access Wood Fabrication facility will enable students to realise their designs in three-dimension. Housing a varied range of machinery, students can utilise band saws, pillar drills, sanders, and hand tools to make a variety of models and final designs.
Students can enhance their practice and skillset through our advanced specialist access training scheme. Here they can access advanced machineries such as panel saws, surface and thickness planers, wide belt sanders and take advantage of opportunities to work with wood and metal lathes.
Our advanced specialist technicians regularly run enrichment sessions to encourage students to explore their practice in innovative ways. They can experiment with traditional processes such as steam bending, laminating, veneering, vacuum forming, wood carving and joint making. 

Metal Fabrication

Our specialist open-access Metal Fabrication facility enables students to be exploratory and experimental, placing making at the core of their practice. Here they can discover hot and cold working and understand how metal as a material is applied and performs.
Cold working involves joining and shaping metal using cutting, drilling, folding, bending, turning and milling, using a variety of hand tools. Guided by experienced technicians, students can manipulate materials using heat via our in-house forge and welding equipment.
For those looking to advance their skill sets, students will learn how traditional craftsman skills can be applied to modern practices. 

The Babbage Building's superb spaces and facilities will encourage the creation and exchange of ideas between students across all disciplines, reflecting 21st-century working practices and the expectations of today's employers. This major investment to develop first-class teaching spaces, research facilities and laboratories reflects the successes of our STEM community; it will strengthen our relationships with industrial partners and will support the University in its mission to advance knowledge and transform lives.

Professor Alex Belton 
Head of School and substantive Professor of Mathematics, School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics

Plymouth is undergoing something of a creative revolution. It is bringing design and digital innovation to the fore and ensuring the city’s creative sector can offer new opportunities, spaces and skills. This new facility will enhance the University’s place at the forefront of that, and mean we can continue to attract and nurture the design stars of the future.

Professor Chris Bennewith
Executive Dean for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business

This is a landmark project that will have a number of significant benefits for the University and wider community. Over the past decade and more, we have invested in our estate and created outstanding research and teaching facilities in the arts and health, ocean science and sustainability. This project will enable us to build on our existing expertise in engineering and design, and provide staff and students with a facility that matches their aspirations and enables them to push the boundaries in addressing real-world challenges.

Professor Judith Petts CBE
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth