Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing (AM-3DP) technology can be described as “a process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies” (ASTM, 2012). AM-3DP encompasses a multitude of different technologies, each at differing levels of technological maturity, offering the use of different materials, with different quality outputs. As the technical performance of AM-3DP technologies have improved since their invention three decades ago, their use has expanded from applications predominantly for rapid prototyping to the production of final parts with applications across a variety of industries. The reasons for their increased adoption lie in some key differences from traditional subtractive, forming and casting processes. The additive nature of AM-3DP allows new design freedoms; their digital nature means that manufacturing directly from 3D models is possible; and their tool-free nature enables more flexible manufacturing. These advantages combine to mean that AM-3DP can be used to manufacture bespoke customised products on demand that are economically attractive relative to conventional mass production methods
The UK is amongst the global leaders in both the development of knowledge and successful application of AM-3DP technology, but there are gaps in the industrial ecosystem that need to be addressed if the UK is to capture value from the opportunities presented by AM-3DP. In addition, national strategies around the world are being developed to accelerate innovation and provide those nations with a significant advantage as they co-ordinate and focus their research, innovation and commercialisation activities relating to AM-3DP.
To respond to these issues, a Steering Group of senior representatives of a range of public and private sector organisations produced a AM Strategy Positioning Paper that provided an overview of the importance of AM-3DP to the UK economy. This Positioning Paper marked the starting point for the development of a UK National Strategy for AM-3DP, a process that covers five stages.
Short summary reports on the evidence capture process and initial analysis are available by clicking here.
We welcome input from individuals, organisations, and communities with an interest in the provision and use of AM-3DP technologies and related services to support the development of this strategy. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The capturing and analysis of evidence has been supported by researchers from the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing, ESRC and EPSRC-funded projects at the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing Technology Enterprise Group, and the University of Cambridge Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy.