The advent of additive manufacturing – better known as 3D printing – has opened up a whole host of opportunities for manufacturers looking for the competitive advantage offered by having their products designed and created as quickly as possible. Furthermore, advances and developments in 3D printing technology have contributed to the rise of ‘digital manufacturing’ across Europe, powering forward the digital economy and allowing the next generation of ‘makers’ to bring their ideas to market, and at speed. It is clear that additive manufacturing is big business for today’s manufacturing industry.
3D printing- from hobby to major technology advancement
The news has recently been awash with stories of major 3D printing breakthroughs. 3D printed limbs, bones, and even 3D printed skin have been hitting our headlines demonstrating how 3D printing is revolutionising the healthcare industry, and indeed many other industries across the world. Additive manufacturing has the capability to change today’s manufacturing sector in particular and can transform modern factory floors. Indeed, organisations such as Proto Labs are already harnessing the power of additive manufacturing. Developers can upload a 3D computer – aided design (CAD) file on to the company’s website, with an interactive quote for that design being turned around in a matter of hours. This kind of fast response and rapid prototyping is delivering speed and efficiency benefits to today’s manufacturing business.
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One priority for today’s manufacturer is ensuring speed to market to keep up with the accelerating pace of consumer and customer demands. The question is: how are fast production times achieved without compromising on quality? In the past, many UK manufacturers have had to offshore their manufacturing base for rapid production of parts while keeping operational costs to a minimum. The beauty of investing in additive manufacturing is that it allows manufacturers to re-shore their manufacturing base back to the UK – as fast mass customisation, at a low cost, can be delivered at home and closer to the customer.
Additionally, by harnessing additive manufacturing technology, the UK manufacturing sector can stay ahead of the competition as it helps to improve the job prospects for young STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) talent. For example, a young creative designer or software developer may not be aware that they can embark on a manufacturing career. As the worlds of hardware and software converge, the manufacturing sector needs the brightest and best in IT talent, to help accelerate innovation in the new era of ‘high-tech’ manufacturing.
By harnessing additive manufacturing technology, the UK manufacturing sector can stay ahead of the competition
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Additive manufacturing has the capability to truly transform the manufacturing sector in the UK, helping to revitalise a once booming industry. Manufacturers have to adapt and embrace new digital business models that focus on speed, quality and customer demand, and these types of business model will require innovative software and the latest in technological advancements for ultimate success. Additive manufacturing can inspire a new generation of STEM talent, who can use their skills to breathe new life into the high-tech manufacturing sector of today.