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Additive manufacturing moves into the mainstream in the UK

June 1, 2022
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing technologies, could offer opportunities to Wisconsin companies looking to participate in the UK market.

Additive manufacturing is starting to take hold among UK industries, thanks to substantial government support for the technology.

Additive manufacturing is 3D printing at an industrial level. Using computer-aided design or 3D object scanners, three-dimensional products can be built layer by layer rather than by cutting, stamping or carving them out of a larger piece of raw material.

Initially used to make rapid prototypes, 3D printing is becoming an integral part of the actual production process among UK companies. As a result, investment is increasing for higher capacity printers and new technologies.

The 3D printing market in the UK is expected to reach a compound annual growth rate of 10% from 2021 through 2026, according to a report by Mordor Intelligence, and high-value manufacturing is projected to generate more than £3.5 billion ($3.95 billion USD) per year by 2025.

Government initiatives are providing support to UK universities and research institutes that are building collaborations with a wide variety of organizations and companies across the globe.

More than 30 universities around the UK have initiated additive manufacturing research and development, with the largest programs at the University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield and University of Cambridge. Researchers at several universities have established a 3D printing design consortium called the Design for Additive Manufacturing Network.

Meanwhile, the UK National Centre for Additive Manufacturing has a team of engineers and technical specialists as well as metal, ceramic and polymer printers to help companies develop prototypes or test an initial production run.

The additive manufacturing process is getting attention in sectors such as health care, automotive, aerospace and consumer goods. For example, in the construction industry, 3D printing can be used to create construction components or to “print” entire buildings. In health care, additive manufacturing helps scientists develop artificial tissues and muscles.

Wisconsin companies involved in 3D printing technologies may be able to pursue opportunities to collaborate with companies or organizations in the UK.

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