AMUK Welcomes Airframe Designs as British 3D Printing Industry Grows


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While the UK is not the hub for 3D printer and materials manufacturers as other nations, the country continues to excel at the research, development, and application of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies across various industries. In particular, the UK has fostered a collaborative environment that brings together academia, industry, and government to accelerate innovation in 3D printing. Among those bodies playing just such a role is the trade association Additive Manufacturing UK (AMUK), which has recently added aerospace 3D printing expert Airframe Designs to its ranks.

Established in 2014, AMUK is the country’s most substantial organization dedicated to 3D printing. In 2020, it was folded into the larger Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), whose history dates back to 1919. As an engineering services firm, Airframe Designs was founded a decade ago before setting up an AM-focused branch dedicated to polymer 3D printing services for the aviation, defense, space, marine, nuclear, rail, automotive and medical industries. By joining AMUK, both the engineering services company and the trade group stand to benefit, with the former bringing its expertise and connections in aerospace and the latter the broader industrial AM network of the UK.

Jerrod Hartley, CEO of Airframe Designs, said: “Joining the lead industry organisation will help raise awareness of the benefits of additive manufacturing technology and our own engineering excellence. There is a revolution happening in UK manufacturing with the adoption of additive manufacturing and we want to help lead and build on these opportunities. This technology enables us to produce lightweight, highly accurate, and robust airframe parts and tooling which are delivered at pace, whilst also helping to reduce carbon emissions and achieve Net Zero goals by 2050.”

To bolster its capabilities Airframe Designs has purchased a Stratasys Fortus 450mc, along with a new five-axis milling machine and vat photopolymerization 3D printer. The firm has already applied its expertise to designing and manufacturing 3D printed tooling fixtures for military aircraft, as well as conceptualizing new unmanned air systems and developing operator consoles for special mission aircraft.

Image courtesy of Airframe Designs.

In addition to being the home of metal 3D printer manufacturer Renishaw, inkjet producer Xaar has been key in a number of new AM techniques, including high speed sintering. Legacy metal maker GKN has been pivotal to the progress of the global 3D printing industry and numerous industrial giants, such as Rolls-Royce, have leveraged AM substantially. Nevertheless, we have yet to see the UK play the same role in Industry 4.0 as it has in prior eras of industrialization.

Recent developments indicate that this is changing. As Macro Analyst Matt Kremenetsky pointed out, in relation to the UK’s £4.5 billion Advanced Manufacturing Plan, “In a very real sense, then, a British Industry 4.0 strategy represents the Industrial Revolution returning to its launching point, and the origins of globalization coming full circle.”

An indicator that 3D printing is finding a safe home in the country is last year’s news that Stratasys was opening a logistics hub in the UK. This is complemented by the emergence of Wayland Additive as a homegrown electron beam 3D printer manufacturer, Orbex as a satellite launch provider, and the British military’s increasing deployment of AM technologies. The percolating AM scene in the UK is being further boosted by coalitions with British allies, namely the US and Australia. All of this is to say that Airframe Design couldn’t have picked a better time to join AMUK, as the organization is likely about to receive its proper spot in the sun.

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