The UK's Technology Strategy Board, is working with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to jointly fund 18 additive manufacturing research projects. They plan to invest a total of £8.4 million into the projects and one of the largest beneficiaries of the grants is British rapid prototyping company 3T RPD.
3T RPD is the UK's largest plastic AM (Selective Laser Sintering) provider, supplying fifty percent of the total UK market. They will be spearheading three of the eighteen research projects and collaborating on three others. The scope of the research projects ranges from improving the surface finish of orthopedic implants to producing new powders that allow designers to build with colored components. 3T RPD will also be helping to develop software that automatically creates build supports for metal 3D printed pieces and an automated system for polishing and machining parts post-build.
"By supporting additive manufacturing, the Government-backed TSB is making a welcome investment in the future of UK manufacturing," said Ian Halliday, 3T's CEO. "This funding allows us to expand our established research and development team and we are already recruiting three new members of staff. The benefits to 3T will be significant not just in the short term but also in the long term as we compete in the worldwide market for additive manufacturing."
This latest strategic investment is part of a government wide initiative to embrace and build upon existing additive manufacturing technology. The press release announcing TSB's distribution of the £8.4 million stated, "The UK is a world leader in additive manufacturing and this investment should accelerate the UK's uptake of this established technology that continues to develop. This additional funding will bring additive manufacturing production components and consumer items to market faster and at higher quality giving engineers and designers more understanding of, and confidence in, the process."
Earlier this year, the UK government also updated their national public school curriculum to reflect their vision for the future. Children as young as eleven years old will now have access to 3D printers and mathematical modeling programs. "We are in a global race," Prime Minister David Cameron said. "Our children are competing against children in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore, and we need to make sure our national curriculum – the standards we set – are as rigorous, as tough, as those on the other side of the world."