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Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has the potential to revolutionise manufacturing by introducing unprecedented efficiency, flexibility and innovation.

But for many manufacturers, it can be intimidating, with many companies lacking the internal skills to implement the technology into their processes.

For the last five years Made Smarter has been on a mission to demystify such a transformative technology.

We have also cultivated strong partnerships with demonstrators to show, not just tell what you can achieve with 3D printing.

PrintCity is a leading 3D printing facility based at Manchester Metropolitan University, focusing on four core activities: teaching, research, knowledge exchange and school’s outreach.

The multidisciplinary team at PrintCity have helped manufacturers to explore and understand the benefits of 3D Printing and see where it could add value to their business.

Their role is to work with businesses through the design and manufacturing process, helping companies to understand the product or process and holistically look at the whole design and manufacturing workflow. They are then able to support the manufacturer in selecting the most appropriate material and technology for a specific application.

With almost £2m invested in 3D Scanning and 3D Printing technologies, and 70 x 3D printers, spanning a variety of technology types, PrintCity has been able to support over 200 SMEs to develop new products, goods and services.

PrintCity offers a range of services to companies including:

  • 3D Printing Feasibility Studies.
  • CAD Design.
  • Product Development.
  • Process Development and Evaluation.
  • Rapid Prototyping.
  • 3D Scanning and Reverse Engineering.

Professor Carl Diver, PrintCity Director, said: “PrintCity is here to help demystify 3D printing to help boost productivity and growth within your businesses.”

Made Smarter has worked closely with PrintCity over the past five years to deliver innovative training for SMEs through the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund and Leadership programmes.

The Fast Track programme in 2021 involved flexible, modular training for companies including: Fabricon Design (Ashton-under-Lyne), Rotite Technologies (Old Trafford), Visual Architects (Hyde), MSM aerospace fabricators (Middleton), Arden Dies (Stockport), RPS precision engineering (Whitworth), Electro-Mechanical Installations (Stockport), Embossing Rollers (Heywood), M&I Materials (Stretford), Rawwater Engineering Company (Manchester), Bounce Cycles (Chorley) and BEP Surface Technologies (Radcliffe).

By participating in the programme they were able to gain a deeper understanding of the benefits before making an investment decision.

MSM aerospace fabricators, an advanced engineering company based in Middleton, develops and manufactures complex parts and assemblies for Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

After taking part in the Fast Track programme, MSM invested in 3D printing for production templates, laser tooling and checking gauges for inspecting components.

Michael Pedley, Managing Director, said: “We upskilled one of our manufacturing engineers, brought that expertise in-house, and had confidence to invest in additive manufacturing which has had a phenomenal impact.”

3D printing also offers a host of other benefits.

Traditional manufacturing often involves complex tooling and molds, leading to time-consuming and costly setups. In contrast, 3D printing allows for the direct creation of intricate designs layer by layer, eliminating the need for many intermediate steps. This not only accelerates the production timeline but also reduces material waste.

Moreover, 3D printing enables customization on a scale previously unattainable. Manufacturers can swiftly adapt to design changes, produce prototypes rapidly, and efficiently manufacture small batches or one-of-a-kind items. This flexibility promotes innovation and empowers businesses to meet diverse consumer demands.

The technology's impact spans various industries, from aerospace to healthcare, enhancing product development and fostering a more sustainable, agile, and cost-effective manufacturing landscape.

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