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Government announces £7m investment in 3D printing technology

22 Oct 2012
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The government has announced its intention to invest £7m in the research and development of 3D printing technologies and additive manufacturing.

Universities and Science minister David Willets announced the funding on Monday and said it will hand UK businesses the opportunity to change the face of manufacturing across the globe in all market sectors, from aerospace to jewellery.

"We believe this new investment will help UK companies make the step change necessary to reach new markets and gain competitive advantage," said Willets.

The grants will be awarded through an open competition managed by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which has so far invested £20m in 3D printing technologies since its launch in 2007.

"We have funded many projects over the last few years, many of them in the manufacturing space and if we look at how much we have given to the area of additive manufacturing, it's around £20m," said Robin Wilson, TSB lead technologist, in an interview with V3.

"There is a school of thought that what is known as 3D printing is the lower end of the market, and even the home maker can buy parts. But what is called additive manufacturing tends to be associated with the higher end of the market, where costs associated with the technology are £500,000.

"We are interested in both ends of the spectrum. We don't want to polarise [the field]. We want to do the opposite."

Wilson added the 3D printing and additive manufacturing market has already come along way.

"We have made developments in understanding the technology, the capabilities, improving the materials, software and machinery. In some niche markets, there is already a production in place," he said.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Economic and Social Research Council, will be helping the TSB manage the competition, which will be opening on 3 December.

More details on the competition, named Inspiring New Design Freedoms in Additive Manufacturing, will be available from the TSB website from the end of October.

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Rosalie Marshall

Rosalie Marshall is the special projects editor and chief reporter at V3. Previously she was a reporter for IT Week and channel editor for online television site Rosalie covers government IT, business applications, IT skills, open source technology and social networks.

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