AM UK—an independent, government-backed collaboration, positioned to help create, disseminate and drive the UK’s additive manufacturing (AM) strategy—has released the Additive Manufacturing UK National Strategy 2018-25, a new initiative that aims to bring the benefits of AM to more industries and establish the UK as a global leader in the field.
The strategy is to involve academia, finance bodies, government and industry in the provision of a single access point for the latest, independent AM information and research.
AM has the potential to transform how and where manufacturing is done across a wide range of industrial sectors; beyond the early adopters that have seen the biggest impact, such as aerospace, automotive, defense and medical.
The UK is considered to be amongst the global leaders in terms of knowledge and successful application of AM. However, as Dr. Paul Unwin, chairman of the AM UK strategy steering group, pointed out: ‘The UK currently only captures 5 percent share of a worldwide market that was worth 3.59 bn GBP (4.81 bn USD) in 2015’.
A main reason for this is that the UK’s AM supply chain is extremely lacking and consequently many designers have sought solutions abroad. The UK government has supported AM UK’s research into AM by providing over 200 mn GBP in funding over the last five years, an investment that is expected to help AM UK reshore the services that have disappeared overseas.
The strategy takes into consideration the entire supply chain and is said to be 'focused on producing the most effective outcome for seeing a transformation in the way businesses operate'.
Unwin continued: ‘As this global market grows, it is vital that the UK gains ground. This technology is at a point where it can really take off and the opportunities for commercial gain are out there. It is estimated that the UK can win up to 8 percent or 5 bn GBP (6.7 bn USD) of this rapidly growing global market, forecast to reach 69 bn GBP (92.4 bn USD) by 2025.’
The strategy’s primary focus is helping the high-value manufacturing sector to make progress by understanding the diversity and true value of AM applications. Integrating AM into existing manufacturing processes is known to be costly and not uncomplicated, therefore AM UK believes more facilities are needed around the UK that allow companies to put it to the test and realize its potential.
AM UK has joined forces with the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult—and specifically the National Centre for AM, hosted by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC)—to help industry exploit the competitive advantage to be gained by employing AM.
The collaboration brings together a strong network of additive experts in the UK to: support AM knowledge transfer; demonstrate how well AM works in practice; and identify any barriers to AM and eliminate them.
A key focus area of focus will be ‘upskilling the workforce’. There is currently only a small number of well-trained, experienced AM experts. It is perceived as crucial to equip engineers with the skills required to take AM forward and establish more UK businesses as major players in the global market.
Unwin concluded: ‘As we head into Brexit, additive manufacturing can make a real change in the UK and we will be devising the training and education programs needed to provide the additive manufacturing engineers of the future.’
The Additive Manufacturing UK National Strategy 2018-25 document can be downloaded here.