Design processes based on human development for additive manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Additive manufacturing has the potential to impact on the life of everyone through the manufacturing of complex parts in a single process. Additive manufacturing involves building parts layer by layer, rather than cutting away material which happens with conventional manufacturing processes. To fully realise the potential of additive manufacturing new ways of undertaking engineering design need to be developed. The conventional way of educating engineering designers limits the opportunities additive manufacturing offers. The overall aim of this project is to develop new design processes based on human development for additive manufacturing. There are many similarities between human development and additive manufacturing and this project will exploit these similarities to develop new design rules. In the project a study will be undertaken to understand how the medical device industry currently designs implants and determine their uptake of additive manufacturing processes and the barriers to using the technology. The analogy between human development and additive manufacturing will then be investigated to help create a new set of design rules for additive manufacturing. Finally the new design rules will be tested. The main output from this project will be a new set of design rules for additive manufacturing that can be used to produce cost-effective parts.

Planned Impact

This project will develop new design processes based on human development for additive manufacturing and it has the potential to have wide impact and benefits in a number of different sectors.

Societal beneficiaries:

1) Industry engaged with design will have design engineers with an increased education and set of tools for developing new designs of parts for additive manufacturing leading to more efficient designs being produced

2) End users of components produced using additive manufacturing will have a greater choice. For example, joint replacement implants could be made patient specific.

3) Policy makers such as the Department for Business Innovation & Skills will have a clearer understanding of engineering design for additive manufacturing and the need for more apprenticeships in this area.

Economic beneficiaries:

1) The manufacturing industry will benefit through improved designs for additive manufacture leading to shorter manufacturing lead times that will reduce costs through the use of less material and energy consumption during manufacture

2) End users of components produced using additive manufacture, such as the National Health Service for joint replacement implants, will benefit through reduced costs associated with the purchase of implants.


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Thomas-Seale L (2022) Teaching design for additive manufacturing: efficacy of and engagement with lecture and laboratory approaches in International Journal of Technology and Design Education

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Thomas-Seale L (2018) The barriers to the progression of additive manufacture: Perspectives from UK industry in International Journal of Production Economics

Description The project undertook structured interview with industry to better understand the barriers to the progression of additive manufacture. Sixteen key barriers to the progression of additive manufacture. in industry were identified, including : education, cost, design, software, materials, recyclability, machine constraints, in-process monitoring, mechanical properties, repeatability, validation, standards, quality, inspection, tolerances and finishing. The second aspect of the project was to develop analogies between human development and design for additive manufacture, and a number of tools have been developed.
Exploitation Route The researcher from the grant (Dr Lauren Thomas-Seale) has subsequently been appointed as a Lecturer in Design in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. Two spin-out PhD projects have been developed and were started in October 2017.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description PhD in Additive Manufacturing
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2020
Description Temporal Design for Additive Manufacture: GrowCAD
Amount £237,591 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S036717/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2019 
End 07/2021
Description 3D printing workshop for undergraduate students 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact A 3D printing worksop was held to let undergraduate students understand the importance of the design process fro 3D printing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017