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Emerging Trends in Additive Manufacturing

Posted on 25/10/2018

KTN's Monika Dunkel reports on the AM SIG's recent community building event looking at small scale additive manufacturing and emerging trends in AM.

Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing has roots going back as far as the end of the 19th century, when French photosculptor Francois Willeme, used 24 cameras to first demonstrate 3D scanning technology.

Today there is a rapidly growing market for AM products and services and the Wohler’s Report (2017) estimates the UK can capture £3.5bn per year by 2025 with 60,000 jobs supporting the knowledge economy.

Britain is the world’s third fastest nation accelerating its domestic 3D printing market, according to research released this year by HP.

But what are the challenges and benefits of this technology? KTN’s AM SIG team curated an event in Birmingham to examine AM on a small scale and emerging trends to look at the status quo and the future of AM.

KTN was particularly keen to demonstrate the market readiness of projects, rather than prototyping or the activities of hobbyists.

Qin Hu of the University of Nottingham presented two-photon lithography to create arbitrary 3D nano or microstructures with a typical fabrication speed of 10 mm/s and a resolution of around 100 nm. Current market applications can be found in micro optics, for example compound lenses printed on CMOS chips or micro-devices like micro-robotics for drug delivery.

Ben Paul, her former PhD student, who has founded Neuroloom with seed money from Deep Science Ventures Fund showed one practical application in microfluidics transport. Neuroloom print polymer based micro-needles and use them to insert cells, for example in retinal implants, to improve severely damaged eyesight. Future applications of their painless micro-needles technology are targeting the spinal cord to palliate chronic pain or cure autoimmune diseases.

Neil Chilton, presented PEL’s small scale work in printed, flexible and organic electronics, a US $29.3bn global market (as estimated by IDTechEx 2017). Already in the market are conductors and insulators, light emitting colour elements like OLEDs, chemical and physical sensors, batteries, PV and low bit memory.

Materials you might not normally associate with AM is gold and precious metals but David Fletcher from Cookson Gold demonstrated some beautifully designed and intricate items of jewellery. Precious metals are also used in made-to-measure dentistry, decreasing long waiting times to get crowns.

Interlooped and ModeClix have partnered to design and print white and coloured polymer knot structures to create a mesh material that can be used to make a dress or a tube, which could be used in medical applications. The innovative element of the dress design is that all the knots can be opened and closed to allow recreation of a new dress using the same material. Recycling by redesign.

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To recreate whole ecosystems, Jon Chamberlain and Louis Clift from the University of Essex presented how using industrial clay, they aim to regenerate coral reefs with tests in the Pacific Ocean starting next year.

Life saving or life improving applications of AM can be found in medical applications, like artificial tissues as presented by Sam Olof of Oxsybio and 3D printed scaffolds to regenerate bones as presented by University of Glasgow – technology which helped save this dog’s leg following a car accident. Adoption in humans isn’t expected until at least 2020.

Finally, FDM Digital Solutions presented how to move AM forward, and how the design process, over materials and production, is the key to fast quick adoption, words echoed by Robin Wilson of Innovate UK (see video).

The AM SIG has hosted more then 70 events in the last 2 years, playing a significant role in sharing knowledge, raising awareness and bringing relevant players across sectors and supply chains together. We’re busy planning more events and we’d like to hear from you if you have an innovation in this space. Sign up to receive news from the team.

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