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Additive Manufacturing – a crystal ball on future opportunities for SMEs

What opMarketing for Additive Manufacturingportunities exist for UK manufacturing at this time? Well we have discussed reshoring of production which is certainly one opportunity – but the UK has long been a centre of design and development which is where another opportunity presents.

The world of product 3D printing – additive manufacturing – creates a situation where products may be developed in small specialist engineering design teams and then put into production at the most appropriate facility with regard to quality and cost constraints.

Clearly additive manufacturing itself presents a further opportunity in the output of small quantity specialist items at very high speed. Need a one-off item today – then design it and print it – today.

Constraints of the technology are still quite limiting for in in-service parts, but it is very early days and the capability is developing rapidly. Small additive manufacturing units themselves present an opportunity – for example a distributor of volume products may identify a specialist UK demand, e.g. for an old imperial based component or a UK colour or material which the big production facilities cannot provide in small quantities at competitive cost. Then such a distributor could perhaps develop the product themselves without traditional manufacturing investments in machines and skill sets, in a way that enhances their UK business.

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