Partners including Rolls-Royce and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) have announced plans to develop technology they claim could “revolutionise the use of additive manufacturing in the UK”.
The Evo One LFAM (large format additive manufacturing) project – which also involves 3D printing specialists Evo-3D, materials supplier Filamentive, software developer AI Build and energy tech company Baker Hughes – aims to develop a 3D printer system that could make UK manufacturers more competitive than international peers. It has received £1.1m in funding from government agency Innovate UK.
LFAM is a commercial 3D printing technique that creates large volume polymer components, used in a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, energy, and marine. While countries such as the USA, Germany and China have embraced this approach, there are currently no manufacturers of large format 3D printers in the UK, the project partners said. The country only accounts for around 5% of the global additive manufacturing market, which the government aims to increase to 8% by 2025.
Existing LFAM systems have their limitations, however. These include slow build times, being unsuitable for high-value or high-integrity parts, operational complexity, use of unsustainable materials, and being unaffordable to small and medium-sized companies.
The new product being developed through Evo One LFAM will “address the challenges associated with these systems and cater to the specific needs of the UK market”, the partners said. The design team is aiming to make it 60% more reliable, achieve a 50% increase in productivity, reduce training and maintenance costs by 30%, and cut material waste by 80%, among a range of other improvements.
Jake Hand, director of development at Evo-3D, said: “The UK is behind other major economies when it comes to LFAM. What we are aiming to do through the development of this system is democratise high-value, environmentally responsible manufacturing in the UK through a system that will bring the latest technology and capabilities to large and small businesses.
“We saw during the pandemic how easily supply chains can crumble. That’s why it’s potentially more important than it ever has been to develop as much capacity and capability in the UK as we can, not to mention the economic and carbon reduction opportunities associated with having a thriving manufacturing sector.”
The NMIS team will support the project across several of its specialisms, including material analysis, design, and the additive manufacturing process. It will also look at the validation and verification of the system and the high value materials being used. Rolls-Royce and Baker Hughes will test the system once it is ready.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, director of the digital factory at NMIS, said: “We have a huge opportunity in the UK to be a leader in large format additive manufacturing. Putting the right technology in as many manufacturers’ hands as we can is a great base to build on, and having a UK-based OEM is the first step in that direction.
“With the right tools at our disposal, we can encourage more manufacturers of all sizes to embrace the latest manufacturing techniques and technologies, paving the way for a more sustainable and globally competitive sector. Our team, with specialisms ranging from digital process management to forging and forming, is supporting businesses across Scotland and the UK to innovate and transform what they do.”
After the project’s completion, Evo-3D aims to launch a spin-out business to commercialise the system, called RapidFusion.
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