Q) Has business been growing at the Digital Manufacturing Centre since the launch and what are your targets to grow the business further over the next few years?
Kieron: While we had anticipated a gradual build in demand, as industry became more aware of production additive manufacturing (AM), the reality has exceeded expectations. Not only have we grown substantially on the part volume and client side, but we have also been able to install a variety of new machines and equipment to further expand our offering.
We anticipate that, over the next few years, the business will continue to undergo strong growth as players across space, aerospace, automotive, motorsport, O&G, medical devices and other sectors better understand the technology, its product lifecycle cost benefits and what is possible with state-of-the-art commercial AM.
Q) What are your current capabilities in terms of machinery and technology?
Kieron: We currently offer metal, polymer (including thermoplastics, epoxies and silicone) AM, coupled with a number of complementary surfacing and finishing technologies, including machining. For polymers, we offer SLS, SLA, FDM and composite filament carbon-filler PEEK. We use Renishaw laser powder bed fusion machines for our metals and also offer heat treatment, multi-axis machining and scanning/CMM inspection.
In addition, we are in the process of implementing and integrating a number of advanced control systems, like Renishaw Central, that are the gateway to complete connectivity throughout the facility as well as overarching Beckhoff building control.
Q) Has the DMC made any recent investments in machines and technology?
Kieron: We are continually investing in new machines and new technologies to cover the scope of materials and production technologies required by our diverse client base. We have some exciting announcements around the corner and a steady stream of new technologies arriving during 2022.
One recent example is our trial of the Renishaw RenAM 500Q Flex – a machine that allows for far quicker material changes than a conventional powder printer. This allows us to trial parts for different clients in different metals, within a relatively short timeframe, then seamlessly transfer the parameters to our regular 500Q machines to meet the required volume.