As all of us here at 3DPrint.com can attest to, 3D printing is an amazingly innovative and revolutionary manufacturing technology. But, at least for the time being, the true potential of 3D printing technology is usually best represented when used in unison with other types of manufacturing technologies, such as CNC milling and laser cutting. These other manufacturing processes can often help alleviate the current shortcomings of 3D printing, which includes slow fabrication speeds and a lack of functionality in many of the materials.

uob-logo-full-colour-largest-2Still, it’s certainly not cheap to stock a facility with all of these expensive manufacturing machines. But, a group of engineering graduates from the University of Bristol have efficiently addressed that issue with the OMNI, a low-cost, multifunctional CNC machine that utilizes 3D printing technology milling, component placement, and metrology all on one single platform. The multifunctional 3D printing device developed by the team of students is able to change tools automatically, and incorporates other manufacturing processes to enable the production of stronger, more functional parts at a faster speed.

The OMNI was created by graduate students Alex Michaels, Ed Cooper, Glen Cahill, and Jack Pearson for their final year Engineering Design project. While completing their project, the group realized the great educational potential of the OMNI, which could give students access to manufacturing technologies that are generally too costly to use. The multi-functional machine ended up netting the group a £20,000 award from JISC, a UK-based digital solutions provider specializing in education and research.

The OMNI prototype

The OMNI prototype

“It was fantastic to be able to use our final year project to develop our start-up idea. The need to address the commercial opportunities and constraints of a real design problem within the project really helped identify how we could develop routes to market,” said Ed Cooper. “We are tremendously excited about the prospect of using the start-up as a platform for engaging school and college students with engineering and the future of manufacturing technologies.”

In addition to the funding award, the student team will also receive business mentoring from educational product experts EdTech Futures, as well as marketing guidance from The House and product delivery support from JISC. Once the team finishes developing their business plan, they plan to create an investor pitch this coming January to gain additional funding. After that, they’re aiming to launch the OMNI in time for the 2017-2018 academic school year, hoping to reshape the educational landscape in the UK and enable students to gain vital hands-on manufacturing skills without the need of technician training.

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The OMNI team (left to right) Ed Cooper, Alex Michaels, Jack Pearson and Glen Cahill

By providing UK schools and universities with access to their multi-functional manufacturing device, the team is aiming to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) engagement and help inspire the next generation of engineers and inventors. The innovative group of engineering grads worked closely with Dr Paul Harper and Mervyn White for their final project, which may very well soon be a viable product on the 3D printing market.

In general, the University of Bristol seems to have a deep affinity for 3D printing technology, as their researchers have recently developed a new bio-ink, which could potentially lead to 3D printed bone and cartilage. Additionally, the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science has dabbled with 3D printed robotics in the past. AS for the OMNI, it is yet another promising invention to have come from the school, and could have a major educational impact beyond their own campus in the near future. Discuss further over in the OMNI & 3D Printing forum thread at 3DPB.com.

[Source: University of Bristol / Images: OMNI via University of Bristol]

 

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