Bloc Newsroom

Transforming Inspections Within Rail and Road

An Innovate UK-funded feasibility study by Bloc Digital and the University of Derby is positioned to facilitate the digital transformation of fleet inspections within the rail and road industries.

The research partnership will investigate applying artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning systems to create highly accurate 3D representations of engineering parts from video and imagery. This is the first step towards opening up the emerging technology to the rail, transport and automotive industries and has the potential to significantly enhance the efficiency and power of quality checks. The technology will enable inspectors to rapidly and easily create 3D replicas of critical parts in order to track their condition and degradation over time, improving predictive maintenance and asset lifespan.

Bloc Digital is an industry-leading specialist in creating operational solutions for engineering clients such as JCB, including digital twin, data visualisation and Internet of Things applications. Drawing on a deep knowledge of the manufacturing and engineering sectors and a strong research and development background, this is the company’s latest innovative research project focussing on broadening access to data in order to enhance decision-making and improve process efficiency.

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning which focuses on training artificial neural networks to learn and make intelligent decisions from data. The ability of the technology to automatically discover intricate patterns in data makes it a particularly promising method of capturing, analysing and digitally representing 3D geometries of complex and specialised engineering components. Bloc Digital and the University of Derby will work together to test the feasibility of different methods of deep learning for engineering inspection.

Ben Roullier, Product Development Lead at Bloc Digital, said:

“Our expertise in photogrammetry, and in transforming images of complex machinery into visually accurate 3D models, has given us insight into the value but also the currently labour-intensive and widely inaccessible nature of such work. Deep learning has the potential to revolutionise the space. This project is a perfect opportunity for us to combine our understanding of the wants and needs of engineers with innovative technologies, enabling the industry to work smarter and more effectively.”

Dr Alaa AlZoubi, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Derby, said:

“Entering into a research partnership with a forward-thinking company to develop advanced AI solutions for the digital transformation of engineering inspections underscores our commitment to academic-industry collaboration. By joining forces, we aim to not only advance the frontiers of AI technology but also to impart invaluable insights from academic expertise in deep learning architecture design and computer vision into the development of solutions that meet the complex challenges of fleet inspections. This project provides an ideal platform to highlight the transformative potential that arises when academia and industry collaborate to create innovative, intelligent solutions for the advancement of technology and its practical applications."

The collaboration builds on a Strategic Partnership Agreement between the University of Derby and Derby-based Bloc Digital. The partnership is driving vital investment in developing new opportunities for innovation and skills within the East Midlands region. It is part of the University of Derby’s mission to continuously advance knowledge, deliver a research-informed curriculum, and help local organisations thrive.