The UK’s Digital Manufacturing Centre has officially opened.
The innovation hub has somehow made it through the twin barriers of Brexit and COVID-19 to open the 2000sm (21,500 sf) facility in Silverstone Park.
This enormous facility is designed to assist companies facing challenges when shifting to a digital manufacturing operation, or to help develop complex solutions for unique projects.
The sector-agnostic centre provides expertise and services to industry. They explain:
“The Digital Manufacturing Centre (DMC) is an industry-defining production facility and innovation hub, located at the world-renowned Silverstone Park. With a solution-led philosophy, we are realising the disruptive potential of end-to-end, digitally-connected additive manufacturing.
Our award-winning engineering team harnesses state-of-the-art metal and polymer AM systems, in combination with machining and inspection equipment, to provide a truly unique production solution.
Dedicated to delivering exceptional quality, we supply end-use ready components for industry-defining projects across the space, aerospace, defence, motorsport, automotive, defence, industrial, marine and medical sectors.”
For equipment, the DMC appears to have quite an array of gear. In this image we can see they have a pair of Stratasys Fortus 900s, as well as some 400s (or possibly 450s). They also provide metal and SLA 3D printing equipment, and also mention a silicone capability.
More importantly, the DMC offers expertise. They are staffed with engineers in a variety of speciality roles that can take on and coordinate unusual projects that clients are unable to tackle on their own. They explain:
“The Digital Manufacturing Centre combines the best in additive, net shape and subtractive manufacturing with an engineering-first approach. Dedicated to quality, performance and efficiency, we provide an end-to-end solution, from designing for manufacture to prototyping and serial production.
Operating from our 2,000-square metre next-generation manufacturing facility in Silverstone Park, we work with key technology partners to support our customers with advanced manufacturing systems and capabilities. From metal, polymer and silicone AM systems to machining and inspection services, with full traceability throughout the entire production pathway.”
The DMC has significant collaboration from AM vendors, as well as nearby universities, which include the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge institutions.
DMC’s CEO, Kieron Salter, said:
“This is a significant moment for us, the realisation of a vision. Undertaking construction and fit-out in the middle of a global pandemic has not been without its challenges, but thanks to the support of our partners and SEMLEP, the DMC team’s efforts speak for themselves. While we have been operating at a limited capacity on a select few customer projects, we are now opening the doors and offering these unprecedented capabilities to wider industry.
When we first looked around at the existing AM market, there was a clear lack of engineering collaboration, focus and support. Parts were being made, but 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.”
The DMC is bound to improve UK manufacturing because of their whole solution approach.
This is perhaps one of the barriers to use of AM technology in manufacturing: the problem is more than just the equipment. It’s also the software, process, designs, materials, workflow and other aspects, all of which tend to be isolated from each other. Operations like the DMC that take a higher-level view are able to knit these factors together into workable solutions.
This is one of the reasons I am hesitant when I hear a company intends to “get into” additive by purchasing some equipment. While that may be the most visible aspect, there is much more to the success story. In these cases I always recommend newcomers start with a competent manufacturing service that has not only the equipment, but the expertise and experience to complete the job successfully.
There should be more organizations like the DMC.