Enabling Next Generation Additive Manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


Twenty-first century products demand a new toolset of manufacturing techniques and materials; next generation multifunctional Additive Manufacturing (AM) is one such key tool. As an enabler for new smart, cost-effective, functional 3D heterogeneous devices, products and advanced materials, it will be an essential instrument for future industrial applications and advanced research across a wide spectrum of disciplines and sectors. To accelerate next-generation AM, we have established a multi-institution, multidisciplinary team which spans both basic/applied sciences and engineering and involves collaborations with two leading international research groups and eight multinational industry partners. Our vision is to establish controlled next generation multifunctional AM and translate this to industry and researchers. Initially focussing on novel electronic and pharmaceutical/healthcare applications, we aim to move beyond single material AM by exploiting the potential to deposit multiple materials contemporaneously for the delivery of spatially resolved function and structure in three dimensions (3D).
Owing to potentially radical differences in physical state, chemistry and compatibility, our primary challenge is at the interface of the deposited materials. This programme will focus on overcoming the challenges of spatially controlled co-deposition of dissimilar materials in 3D and we will establish new understanding and methods of both modelling and controlling co-deposition. Exploitation of our findings will be undertaken through higher TRL schemes with our network of research and industrial partners and the wider innovation ecosystem through existing and future projects.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries of the research will include:
- The Programme's researchers, academic's and industrial partners will benefit through participation in an internationally leading research effort. This will result in a marked increase in their understanding of multi-material coalescence/interaction for the four process families to be investigated and will unlock multidisciplinary potential for multi-material, multi-functional devices.
- The Programme will train PhDs and Post-Doctoral Researchers in the rich multidisciplinary environment of a world-class partnership of industry and academia. Coupled with the application foci, this will yield demonstrable real-world relevance and impact set against state-of-the-art fundamental research
- The wider academic community will garner value from the research programme through published articles in leading journals and conference presentations; disseminating the materials and process understanding will underpin the accelerated exploitation of the multifunctional AM capability across research disciplines.
- UK industry will benefit through new research that further enhances the UK's leading position in AM technology and exploitation. The research will impact existing products and new product conception and realisation, with corresponding economic, societal, healthcare and environmental benefits.
- The HVM Catapult (especially through our strong connection with the MTC) and its members will benefit by having a pipeline of research to exploit in future years, emanating from this lower TRL activity.
- Society will benefit through the expedited realisation of advanced multifunctional devices which will have multi-sectoral benefits from improved healthcare devices and treatment options to (e.g.) improved energy storage devices
- The healthcare system will benefit through the genuine advancement in technologies which have the capability to help deliver on the need for personalised healthcare and advanced pharmaceutical/medical devices, helping alleviate current, and the inevitable future, demands on healthcare services.
- Younger generations and the wider public will benefit through clear and well-developed engagement strategy in local schools and a programme of public engagement events

Collaboration and early adopter translation of the research outcomes (the understanding and dynamic control of dissimilar material deposition in 3-dimensions) will be a major mechanism to channel the impact of this Programme, delivering value to the stakeholders and the wider scientific and industrial community. Our focus will be driven through two key application areas and is built on both current and fresh alliances to global industrial partners (see attached letters of support):

The Pharmaceutical / Healthcare Sector: Through strategic partnering with AstraZeneca and Pfizer on this Programme, we have a wealth of global pharmaceutical research and development excellence to bear upon and engage in our research strategy. Our vision and ambitions are both endorsed and shared by an industry who are readily equipped to capitalise and exploit technological advances which can have substantial impact on society's health and wellbeing whilst bringing additional and significant economic benefits.

The Electronics sector: Embedded electronics within devices is a fundamental precept of functionality (often the function within a device). The ability to produce the "function" and "structure" within a single manufacturing process enables not only the reduced assembly and parts consolidation advantages of AM but also the freedom to design and create products not previously achievable. Our collaborators AWE, Canon-Oce, Texas Instruments and Rogers Corp provide a body of pioneering organisations who understand and anticipate the innumerable opportunities and applications that next generation AM capability will generate and want to be at the forefront of that technological innovation