Technology- Additive Manufacturing and Composites

Additive Manufacturing and Composites

Our co-owners Dan Fleetcroft and Mike Maddock talk technology in a recent interview with Jim Davison from the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF). They discuss the types of technologies used within their engineering business and which technology are becoming more popular and growing in application amongst various industries.

Dan started the discussion, “Technology-wise we have a strong in-house understanding of composites – a really growing manufacturing technology, which is increasingly being used in the mainstream automotive industry. Another area is additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing – that is a fast-paced technology moving with some real opportunities to rethink how you design and make everything. So those are probably the two fastest growing areas that we see.

“But we’re also seeing where traditional manufacturing technologies such as milling and turning are being optimised. Research here on the AMP is developing technologies that will half the time it takes to machine something and half the production cost. There’s really a whole host of such developments, almost in any area; materials, manufacturing, measurement and design tools – they are all evolving so quickly. Keeping abreast of these developments is what gives us that advantage to provide our clients with the best possible solution.”

Dan continued to say, “Sector wise – we still work in motor sport, it’s a challenging place to be – the budgets are not what they used to be, or they tend to be more focused on the bottom-line than they are on delivery schedules. There’s also aerospace, medical technologies, green energy and other mainstream high-level technology sectors such as automotive, but we also find clients coming from all over.

“We have projects with domestic goods that require optimising through manufacturing techniques. Also, anything with light-weighting or recycling, where you can save material or change materials. We are even doing some bio-composite work now for retail point-of-sale. As legislation changes the requirements for ‘end-of-life use’ of products we can be asked by clients to find a novel solution to improve a production process that has not changed for the last 30-40 years.”

Mike said that, “We’re working in an environment at the forefront of technology, but even we are still amazed and astounded at some of the things we see and the technologies that are coming through. We focus on how we learn about these technologies, so we can apply them and start pushing them forward. It’s just phenomenal.”

Dan added to Mike’s comment saying- “It’s really exciting times and this kind of combination of technologies – the digital era – the smart devices and how that keys into all the other technologies for kids growing up. All the kids are tech savvy – they are building 3D printers in their bedrooms – you can’t imagine that 20 years’ ago.

Jim Davison asked, “How do you help organisations think differently and fundamentally redesign the products or components they are looking to produce?”

Dan went on to answer by saying, “Really it is helping our clients understand the technology, the capabilities of technology – design for manufacturing information, and how you address the challenges. All of these technologies have advantages but also have some challenges linked with them. It’s a case of working our way around how you integrate parts together. For example; 3D printing means that we can now print things inside other things that we couldn’t do before but is that really a benefit?

“For us, we need to understand the additive manufacturing technologies, their benefits and limitations and how to get the best from them. We also need to steer our clients in their thinking to start with and that’s at a much higher level.

“You may have a client who says that they want to 3D print everything. From calculations it maybe that the 100,000 products they produce annually would require 20,000 3D printing machines to make them. It’s important to step back from getting into the detail of a project straight away from a design point of view, to look at the commercial side and logistics of what will be achieved. This may involve saying to the client that actually 3D printing isn’t quite the best solution yet, but there may be an interim step to take before that.”

We want to ensure that we provide our clients with the best solution to their challenges and provide options that they may not have originally thought of. To find out more about what we do for our clients and the steps we take to achieve the best possible results- take a look at our “What do we do for our client’s” article.

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The team have provided solutions for UAV composite propellers, the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) project, and reverse engineering projects, with our blue light scanning service.

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