An industry consortium is collaborating on a project to bring pioneering 3D printing to manufacturing across Scotland and the UK.

It is claimed technology being developed by the group could revolutionise the use of additive manufacturing – 3D printing – bringing the advanced manufacturing of high-value components for key industries, such as aerospace and oil and gas, to the country for the first time.

The Evo One “large format additive manufacturing” (LFAM) project – which involves including the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and Rolls-Royce – will see the development of a 3D printer system it is claimed could make UK manufacturers more competitive than their international peers.

Evo One also involves 3D printing experts Evo-3D, NMIS operated by the University of Strathclyde and part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, materials supplier Filamentive, software developer AI Build, and energy technology company Baker Hughes.

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The initiative has received £1.1 million in funding from 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.

It is claimed the new product being developed through Evo One LFAM will address the challenges associated with current systems and cater to the specific needs of the UK market.

The system’s 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 improvements.

On the project’s completion, Evo-3D will launch a spin-out business to commercialise the system, called RapidFusion, creating the UK’s first original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in LFAM.

It is claimed its development “would also create the foundation on which a new supply chain can be built, re-shore critical manufacturing capabilities, and help more UK manufacturers take advantage of the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution”.

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Stephen Fitzpatrick, director – digital factory at NMIS, hailed the move.

“We have a huge opportunity in the UK to be a leader in large format additive manufacturing,” said Mr Fitzpatrick. “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.”

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Jake Hand, director of marketing and development at Exeter-based 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 at the vanguard of the latest available green technologies.”

The NMIS team said it will support the project across a number 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 high-value materials being used. Rolls-Royce and Baker Hughes will test the system once it is ready, while AI Build will help with the development of the slicing technology.