Oct.23, 2012

The UK government, through its Technology Strategy Board (TSB), has announced its intention to invest £7m in in research and development of 3D printing technologies.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts announced the funding on Monday and said:"3D printing technologies offer huge potential for UK businesses to compete successfully by embracing radically different manufacturing techniques that could be applied across a wide variety of global market sectors, from aerospace to jewellery."

"We believe this new investment will help UK companies make the step change necessary to reach new markets and gain competitive advantage."

The grants will be awarded through an open competition "Inspiring New Design Freedoms in Additive Manufacturing" managed by the TSB. The competition opens on December 3, and will be focused on innovations to help businesses bring components and consumer items made by additive manufacturing more quickly to market. It aims to help innovative UK companies take the next steps to accelerating the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies, overcome remaining technical barriers and explore new business models.

TSB has so far invested £20m in 3D printing technologies since its launch in 2007. Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, added:"we aim to accelerate the transition from fundamental research to the creation of new design, production and supply chain competences, capitalising on work we have previously funded. We want to make the UK a world leader in 3D printing. We are setting our sights high."

According to a recent TSB report, the UK has spent almost £96 million on the development of AM since 2007. But it almost mentions that "Although the UK is clearly engaged in the development of AM technologies and applications, it is far from leading in any one specific area." "It is not doing enough to either engage with the broader user community, or to drive innovation through to commercial exploitation within the UK technology supply chain."

"The UK is not yet considered a leading AM machine tool source, when compared to Germany with six vendors or the USA with ten. However, it has the building blocks to become one, with the potentially strong market position of UK's only vendor and a number of developmental technologies such as High Speed Sintering & Selective Laser Sintering."

The report addressed a few strategic goals to help UK consolidate its current position in AM, open new markets and build a competitive advantage for the future, such as:

  • Deposition rates between four and ten times faster than the current rate;
  • Lower cost raw materials in a larger number of different varieties;
  • Larger more flexible machine configurations, particularly for powder bed processing;
  • In process closed loop control systems reducing process variance;
  • Automated, lower cost, controlled post processing methodologies;
  • Standards for qualifying AM approaches;
  • Materials that are optimised for AM processes;
  • Stronger and more durable AM polymers;
  • More options to process in colour;
  • Connected and synergistic supply chains to develop processes and applications for AM;
  • etc.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Economic and Social Research Council, will be helping the TSB manage the competition. Further information on the competition will be available from the TSB website at the end of October.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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