A Government and industry funded National Centre for Additive Manufacturing - which is changing the face of the manufacturing industry – has been formally opened at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry. The opening ceremony was performed by Anna Soubry MP, Minister for Small Business Industry and Enterprise.
Soubry also officially opened the 8,000 sq ft Aerospace Research Centre on the MTC campus – a facility which will provide a hub for the development of new aerospace manufacturing systems to full industrial scale.
Additive manufacturing – often known as 3D printing is now used across most industry sectors with applications ranging from the production of fine pieces of jewellery to large and complex aero-engine components. The launch of the National Centre for Net Shape and Additive Manufacturing at the MTC confirms the UK’s commitment to developing this ground-breaking technology.
The aim of the National Centre is to develop production-ready additive manufacturing processes, to overcome barriers to wide-scale adoption, and to work on legislative and standardisation issues for this emerging activity.
The Centre has received initial funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK as part of a £2 billion joint Government and industry package to be invested over the next seven years to ensure that UK manufacturing industry retains its competitive edge.
The MTC’s chief technologist, David Wimpenny, who is an acknowledged expert in the field of additive manufacture, said the centre’s priorities would include fast-track innovative process development, powder production, part design, inspection and validation, materials research and robust, cost-effective production processes.
He said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that almost every field of human endeavour, from how we travel, to what we make and use in everyday life, to what we eat, to how we treat injury or illness is likely to be touched by this revolutionary technology. The strength and integrity of components and products made by additive manufacturing often exceeds that of conventionally produced parts. Complex shapes and structures can be made with no joints or weaknesses. Imagine a bicycle made as a single structure with no welds or brazed joints – just a seamless tubular structure.”
He added: “Additive manufacturing enables parts which are too complex to be produced using existing manufacturing techniques to be made at the touch of a button. This is giving designers unrivalled freedom, unlocking their creativity and fostering a new generation of entrepreneurs able to explore new market opportunities without the high barriers to entry associated with conventional manufacturing. Moreover, it is possible to make a single part which is composed of several materials, each printed precisely where required to give the desired properties. This ability to design the material at the same time as designing the shape is a unique characteristic of additive manufacturing which will keep the best material scientists in the UK busy for decades to come.”
The MTC currently employs 30 highly skilled engineers in the National Centre for Net Shape and Additive Manufacturing. This will increase to 50 by the end of 2016.
The Aerospace Research Centre provides a facility in which MTC engineers will work with experts from the world’s major aerospace companies on projects which will define aerospace technology for the future.
The Aerospace Technology Institute provided £15.2 million funding for the new aerospace facility through the Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Innovate UK, formerly the Technology Strategy Board. This investment has been matched by funding from industry.Ruth McKernan, chief executive of Innovate UK, said: “These ground-breaking facilities will further reinforce the MTC and the HVM Catapult’s capabilities as a world-class high value manufacturing research and technology organisation. Innovate UK is proud to be working with the Catapult to help drive forward national economic growth.”
The Aerospace Research Centre forms part of the MTC’s research and development campus which will also include the MTC’s soon-to-be-completed Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre which will tackle manufacturing skills shortage by training manufacturing engineering apprentices on a sponsored or part-sponsored basis, up-skilling manufacturing engineers, and developing graduate engineers and industrial designers.
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