Case Study

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Cardiff University’s School of Engineering join forces with Microsemi

  • Cardiff University joins forces with Californian company Microsemi to develop hand-held system that uses ultrasound to spot damage to personal protective equipment.
  • System allows the robustness of protective armour to be monitored locally, delivering both enhanced safety for the UK’s armed forces and savings for the Ministry of Defence.
  • An innovative undergraduate student project which has resulted in major collaboration which will pave the way for a number of future collaborations.

Cardiff University’s School of Engineering joined forces with California-headquartered Microsemi to develop A-Ultra – a lightweight hand-held system that uses ultrasound to spot damage to personal protective equipment.

Around five million armour units used by the UK’s armed forces are shipped periodically around the globe for X-ray inspection, representing a significant cost. The A-Ultra system allows the robustness of protective armour to be monitored locally, delivering both enhanced safety for the UK’s armed forces and savings for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). A-Ultra began as a student project with around 20 undergraduates completing case studies, including some who went on to PhDs.

The technology uses a transducer to send ultrasonic waves across the armour surface which are then received by another transducer. If the surface of the protective equipment is damaged, the system can give a ‘fail’ or ‘pass’ reading under military field conditions – producing results comparable to existing lab-based testing methods.

Dr Rhys Pullin, School of Engineering, said: ‘The collaboration has brought wide-ranging benefits to both the School and the University. Applications for this technology go way beyond body armour, and will pave the way for further collaborations. The collaborations have allowed us to put together a £1 million Innovate UK application with Microsemi, which has a base in Caldicot, Aston Martin Lagonda and Shape Machining. We have also developed a patent and recruited an outstanding researcher … together with four members of staff.’

Martin McHugh, Head of Business and Technology Development at Microsemi, said: ‘The development of A-Ultra has brought substantial benefits. It has allowed Microsemi to build upon its embedded component technology, develop a new complementary product and bring with it potential job creation and opportunities for early career engineers.’

The benefits of A-Ultra are expected to be fully realised when the MoD delivers a report on the project to all companies bidding to develop the VIRTUS body armour system.