After 18 months in development, the Digital Manufacturing Centre (DMC) launched its all-new advanced engineering and production facility at the UK’s innovative technology and research cluster, Silverstone Park. As one of the country’s most advanced manufacturing facilities, the DMC will leverage additive manufacturing (AM) processes, connectivity, and pioneering engineering to enable local companies to deliver complex products. The DMC will be crucial to securing a connected, national supply chain for advanced engineering and manufacturing for sectors like defense and space as the nation progresses in a post-Brexit and post-pandemic reality.
Partly funded by the government via the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP)’s Local Growth Fund, the 2,000 square meter facility will harness extensive in-house engineering capabilities focused on solving customer challenges. As an end-to-end solutions provider, the facility brings together metal, polymer and silicone AM processes with complementary machining, finishing, and inspection services for a fully connected process chain. The DMC’s extensive partnership network also means that customers have access to multiple proprietary processes, including silicone 3D printing provider Spectroplast’s silicone AM technology and Enable Manufacturing’s additive casting techniques.
DMC’s CEO Kieron Salter described the launch as the “realization of a vision.” A mechanical engineer and owner of high-performance racecar engineering firm KW Motorsport, Salter, understands the local industry needs and has been director of the Silverstone Technology Cluster for almost four years. He highlights the need to generate engineering collaborations and support in an AM market where parts suppliers had little practical engineering input or capability.
“We set out to bridge that gap by focussing on engineering for application and the production of end-use ready parts. Now, we offer a truly end-to-end solution that will enable innovators in the UK and abroad to really push the boundary, whether that be launching satellites or beating lap records,” said Salter. “Not only are we bringing together the most innovative processes and equipment from across the industry, but we are doing so with a focus on connectivity and the end goal of integrating machine learning and artificial intelligence into our process chain, realising Industry 4.0 and aligning with the Government’s Industrial Strategy. This will provide a step-change in efficiency and part quality, distinguishing us from other suppliers and helping to ‘level up’ UK manufacturing and the national supply chain.”
Now open to customers across countless sectors, like space, aerospace, motorsport, automotive, medical, industrial, oil and gas, and marine industries, the DMC will leverage actionable data from across the facility and its machines to deliver a step-change in AM capability and capacity. In addition, by embracing Industry 4.0 practices and principles, the DMC claims its data-driven approach will allow engineers to further refine part design and processes by effectively implementing capabilities including predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
The facility will play a key role in building STEM skills within the Oxfordshire-Cambridgeshire Arc – an area in South Central England that contains some of the UK’s most productive and innovative towns and cities – and be an integral part of the country’s advanced engineering supply chain. Not only will it provide new employment opportunities, but it is also offering valuable support to local education, as the DMC team is already working closely with Silverstone University Technical College (UTC) and other schools and colleges.
Collaboration has been a vital aspect of the DMC’s creation. The business is working alongside several significant industry and technology partners, including Renishaw, Beckhoff, DyeMansion, DMG Mori, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). In fact, thanks to its close partnership with Produmax, the acclaimed aerospace, and precision engineering specialist, the DMC is bridging the Midlands with Northern England. Not only will the two businesses share capability and expertise, but Produmax has set up a satellite site at the DMC to provide on-site advanced machining and metrology for DMC customers.
During the inauguration on July 29, 2021, Salter showcased the new facility to three local members of Parliament (MPs), who helped with the launch, alongside representatives from SEMLEP, the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (BTVLEP), Silverstone Technology Cluster, and Silverstone UTC. Unfortunately, the site was built entirely during the pandemic, adapting to specific requirements and health safety protocols that likely delayed the launch. The MPs, however, boasted the domestic capabilities and investments in leading technologies. In fact, Andrew Lewer, the Conservative MP for Northampton, reflected upon the UK’s manufacturing capabilities and how they have “always been such a critical part” of the economy and employment.
In fact, the UK saw record levels of tech investment last year. Third behind the U.S. and China in tech VC investment, the UK deep tech investment rose by 17% in 2020, the highest rate of growth globally, hitting a record high of $15 billion while facing the challenging conditions of the pandemic. The new facility is a great example of the convergence of innovative AM technologies. It is believed to become a leading force in the region, which has long been a hub of innovation. Moreover, with so many sectors navigating significant shifts in technology, product development, increased competition, and rising demand for advanced, low-carbon solutions, the DMC could play a key role in enabling innovative AM part creation.
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