7 Ways To Integrate Additive Manufacturing Into Your Business10th March 2021
AMufacture and the HP 521017th September 2021
What does 3D printing look like in the UK? How is manufacturing additive being used and how do the companies providing these services stack up? In this blog we will do a quick analysis of 3D printing in the UK, but first we have to go back to where it all began (which was not in the UK).
It was an American Engineer, Charles Hull, who invented and patented stereolithography in 1984 paving the way for engineers, designers and manufacturers to make prototypes and develop designs without the need of upfront costs. His printing process enabled a 3D object to be created digitally via ultraviolet lights that "talked to" his digital STL file, that he also invented.
Since then the evolution of 3D printing has been quick and progressive with two more 3D printing processess being patented in 1986 and 1989. Carl Decker invented Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which used powder to make 3D printed parts and here comes the best bit, his technology did this "layer by layer" a term commonly used and now well known amongst not just 3D printing professionals but the general public. He was closely followed by Scott Crump who developed Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) in 1989. FDM uses heat to layer 3D models, and Crump went on to start the incredibly successful 3D printing company, Stratasys.
From Chuck to Crump the next part of the evolution of 3D printing starts to see the mainstream picking up the processes and on the other end of the scale hobbyists using desktop 3D printers and open source platforms to 3D printing models and parts from home. So what about the Brits? Where does the UK fit in to all of this?
Before we look at 3D printing in the UK let's answer another burning question "What is the difference between 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing?". Very simply put there isn't any. Both terms refer to the process of creating an object by adding of material as opposed to more traditional manufacturing methods that subtract material. You can use both terms interchangeably and they both mean the same thing.
3D Printing Bureaus
In the UK there are an abundance of 3D printing bureaus working to help businesses integrate 3D printing in to their product life cycles without having to make a large investment in to machinery and a skilled workforce. We have some of the major players in the global industry based in the UK.
3D Printing Service Companies
Companies like AMufacture who take the service of a bureau one step further are also entering the market solidifying the UK's position to be a global leader in additive manufacturing. 3D printing service companies in the UK are investing in technologies that compliment additive manufacturing like coatings, generative design and shape optimisation. AMufacture is leading the way in all three of these with other service companies using our proprietary technology.
3D Printing Manufacturers
Whilst it is fair to say that the UK hasn't seen as many 3D printer manufacturers enter the market when compared to the US and Europe; the UK has a special place within 3D printing history due other innovations like the RepRap movement which you can read more about here.
Put simply the RepRap movement has given us all accessible desktop 3D printing which is a pretty big achievement.
What does the future of 3D printing look like in the UK now? The UK government has a real opportunity (post COVID) to invest in and nurture additive manufacturing companies in the UK. Manufacturing is in our DNA and 3D printing isn't going anywhere. Innovations like AMufacture's AMuCoat, a new professional coating developed by AMufacture in 2020 to fill the gap in technical coatings for 3D printed parts, is testament to how the UK can have a continued presence in the history books. Find out more about AMuCoat here.