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Manufacturing firms must embrace 3D printing

Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Bob Barbour of CforC, Tom Walls of LPE, and 3D printing expert Graham Tromans with 3D printed products at LPE’s base on Belfast’s Prince Regent Road.
Rebecca Kincade on May 6, 2014 - 9:57 am in News

3D printing has the potential to revolutionise parts of Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector and local firms should embrace it, a world-leading expert explains.

Speaking at a Centre for Competitiveness (CforC) event in Belfast, US-based Graham Tromans, who advises companies including BMW and JCB, outlined the vast potential of the rapidly-developing technology.

Representatives from Northern Ireland manufacturing firms attended the workshop in the NI Technology Centre at Queen’s University to learn from Mr Tromans expertise and experience, which also spans Formula 1 racing, Aston Martin and Boeing.

Entitled ‘Factories of the Future’, the event, organised by CforC, outlined international developments in 3D printing and additive manufacturing, UK government investment in R&D around the issue, and a practical application of the technology at local prototyping firm LPE.

CforC Chief Executive, Bob Barbour, explains: “The decisions made by Northern Ireland manufacturers today will shape the future competitiveness of the local economy, and there is no doubt that 3D printing is going to play a significant role in the future. We are on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution in manufacturing in which 3D printing will be a disruptive force, speeding up manufacturing processes and completely changing how parts of the manufacturing sector operate.”

“Digital manufacturing, combining things like virtual reality development environments, 3D printing and end-to-end digital processes can radically streamline the entire approach to creating complex products. The factories of the future will be driven by computer technology, driving up quality, improving accuracy, and reducing cost. Northern Ireland firms need to be at the forefront,” he adds.

The workshop was arranged through a partnership between CforC and Queens University Technology Centre at the request of local manufacturing businesses.

With regard to 3D printing, it is estimated that 8 per cent of production is currently used in aerospace and 24 per cent in consumer products, with healthcare, and automotive industries taking a significant proportion.

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling.

Graham Tromans has been supporting industry projects extensively in China, the USA and across the UK. He is chair of the UK Additive Manufacturing Association and was instrumental in developing technology applications and acceptance by companies such as Land Rover, BMW, Aston Martin, Ford, Volvo and more recently Bentley Cars, Boeing Aircraft, British Aerospace, F1 racing, NASCAR, Rolls Royce, Perkins Engines, JCB and many more.

He has represented the UK Governments Department of Trade & Industry on overseas Science & Technology Expert missions in Japan and the USA and has presented numerous papers in the USA, Japan and Europe as well subscribing to publications on Digital Fabrication through the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.
He is Chief Consultant to the China 3D Printing Technology Industry Alliance and has received a number of awards in Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing in the UK and the USA.

The Centre for Competitiveness is a private sector, independent, not for profit membership organisation established by industry to actively support the development of an internationally competitive economy through innovation, productivity improvement and quality excellence in the private, public and voluntary sectors of the economy.

The Centre is governed by a Board of directors representing its members from across all sectors of the economy. It is the National Partner organisation for the European Foundation for Quality Management, Brussels and a strategic partner to the UK Aerospace, Defence and Security industry (ADS) in developing a 21st Century Supply Chain. The Centre is also an active member of the thirty-nation Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils headquartered in Washington DC providing its members with insights into international best practices, global trends and leading edge business practices.

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