DigiTool Project: UK Consortium Aims to Revolutionize Tool & Die Sector with Additive Manufacturing & Industry 4.0 Practices

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While 3D printing may be growing into a billion-dollar industry on its own, large companies around the world are putting this historically disruptive technology into place next to conventional machinery and processes. Exemplifying this type of effort, a two-year project called DigiTool is underway in a new consortium funded in part by Innovate UK, worth £1.2 million.

As University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) joins six other companies in the consortium, their combined mission is to ‘revolutionize the UK’s tool and die sector.’ Much of this centers around opening the door to better performance and greater affordability in die replacement and repair; in fact, the project itself weighs in as one of the largest financial industrial investments in over 40 years.

As they strive to offer expanded capabilities to industrial organizations ranging in all sizes, the following companies will also be joining the consortium:

The DigiTool project, led by TTL, is meant to provide SME’s with the ability to embrace 3D printing and additive manufacturing, but also adaptive machining and other ‘industry 4.0’ practices. The project framework focuses not on huge expenditures for SME’s as they strive toward more progressive manufacturing, but for them to be able to take on new technology without buying new hardware. The consortium will also emphasize recycling and remanufacturing, along with promoting sustainability—one of the greatest benefits in 3D printing production.

“The consortium is all bringing different areas of expertise to the project, which is hoped to enhance competition across the industry through the uptake of innovation and new technology,” states Stephen Fitzpatrick, Machining and Additive Manufacturing Team Lead at the AFRC. “Investment has been slow across the tool and die sector, which has made it difficult for organizations with limited resources to rethink their manufacturing process. Through our additive manufacturing digital framework, we’ll provide these companies with access to new research, technology and insight at a low cost.”

AFRC LMD Hybrid Machine

AFRC LMD Hybrid Machine

All new manufacturing techniques are to be on one platform at AFRC, as they head up additive manufacturing with their LMD Hybrid Machine. Other consortium members will provide:

  • Research from their areas of knowledge
  • Metrology and scanning
  • Adaptive machining
  • Digital integration

“Many firms within the sector may already have a machine that can be retrofitted to integrate laser metal deposition, allowing them to upgrade current assets and save the costs of purchasing a brand-new machine,” said Fitzpatrick.

In the recent press release regarding the project, the companies involved state that they are analyzing a die for a Kimber Mills railway application, ‘with plans to remanufacture and bring worn dies back into service.’

Robin Wilson, Innovation Lead & Catapult Relationship Manager, Manufacturing, Innovate UK adds:

“This is a forward-thinking project that can bring real benefits to the tool and die industry, helping traditional manufacturing businesses to embrace cutting edge digital technologies to boost efficiency and sustainability.

“The area of remanufacturing is a truly exciting one and we are delighted to support DigiTool and the diverse range of partners that are involved.  We look forward to charting its progress. “

3D printing may be a disruptive technology, but it is often one that accompanies and accentuates more conventional techniques today as industry leaders slowing begin making the investment in additive manufacturing processes—and enjoying benefits such as affordability, the ability to customize and perform fast, on-demand production, as well as make changes quickly without having to wait on a middleman. 3D printing is often compared to CNC machining, but is often used in combination with such processes to make automotive parts, as well as used to make parts for conventional processes like injection molding.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

AFRC LMD Hybrid Machine

[Source / Images: Press release sent to 3DPrint.com by BIG Partnership on behalf of the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre]
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