Additive Manufacturing: a mature technology?

Additive International’s chair, Professor Richard Hague, addresses the shift from conventional AM as an “emerging” technology to a more established one – and the importance of research in avoiding its stagnation and advancing the potential of next generation, multi-material AM

While ‘conventional”, single material Additive Manufacturing (AM) can no longer be described as an ‘emerging’ technology, it is definitely still an evolving one. Industries are beginning to rely on additive, and to embrace its functionality and the benefits it can bring. I believe that there is also a greater level of understanding, acceptance and realism about AM’s limitations and what it can and cannot do. This acceptance does not translate to complacency, nor does it mean that additive is stagnating or that there is no further room for research or advancement. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Dishing the dirt on AM

Research into AM’s development – both single and multi-material – and future applications is essential to ensure it remains relevant. However, we need to keep asking questions, like ‘how far has it come?’, ‘what else needs to be done?’ and ‘what’s just around the corner for AM?’.

The Centre for Additive Manufacturing at the University of Nottingham and the MAPP EPSRC Hub of the University of Sheffield, alongside industry expert Phil Reeves, are doing just that. As part of the “pre-conference” day at this year’s Additive International summit, they have teamed up to ask these questions, delve into the answers and to address the ‘dirty secrets’ of AM along the way.

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This pre conference day, to be held at the Advanced Manufacturing Building at the University of Nottingham will end by seeking the views of established experts and new AM innovators – both from the presenters and the audience – engaging in some realistic predictions of where Additive Manufacturing is going.

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Prof Hague talking at the 2019 Additive International conference

Emerging themes at the main conference

Never afraid to shy away from challenges, we will continue to have honest and frank discussions in the two days following at the main conference, “Additive International” – which this year moves to the exciting new venue of Trent Bridge Cricket Ground. The full summit will feature invited expert speakers from across leading academic and research institutions, consumer brands, corporates and industry all cutting through the hype of additive and sharing their successes and, importantly, failures.

As we confirm our speakers for this year’s summit, we’re already seeing some interesting themes developing that reflect where AM applications are headed, including: sustainability, industrial developments, and bio-medical / regenerative medicine applications, new processes and materials.

“Sustainability” continues to be a double-edged sword for AM. Some view additive as a panacea for industrial sustainability, whereas conflicting evidence also says that AM may well be a less environmentally friendly manufacturing approach. Clearly, there is a spectrum of the issue that is very process, application and material dependent and this debate is an area that we’d like to address at this year’s summit.

Equally – and at the other end of the spectrum – we will be exploring the truth about bio-printing and where is this exciting research area taking us.

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Delegates at the 2019 event

Highlighting the breadth of the conference – where the aim is to show the audience the very latest in AM across a spectrum of sectors and the incredible versatility of taking an AM approach – we will also be exploring the very latest advances in the consumer and aerospace sectors. So, if you want to keep fully abreast of where AM really is now and where it’s going, then I look forward to seeing you in July!

Also, be sure to key an eye out in The Engineer for views and insights into AM from this year’s Additive International speakers. You can also register for The Engineer Expo, which will be held at the NEC in June, to hear my presentation on Next Generation AM.

Additive International takes place 15 – 16 July at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground. The pre-summit day is on 14 July and will be held at the Centre for Additive Manufacturing within the Advanced Manufacturing Building at the University of Nottingham. Registration opens in March, visit www.additiveinternational.com for more details.