UK Additive Layer Manufacturing facility opens with EADS Innovation Works’ support

16 September 2011

The opening of a new UK centre created with EADS Innovation Works support will stimulate utilisation of promising Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technologies, which offer the potential for significant breakthroughs in the production of complex and high-value parts.

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Additive Layer Manufacturing (CALM) will promote interest and understanding of ALM’s potential by bringing together academia and industry to explore processes and applications for use across the supply chain.

Yann Barbaux, the head of EADS Innovation Works, said CALM represents a new element in EADS’ global strategy, joining a growing network of more than 2,000 researchers, scientists and engineers dedicated to aerospace excellence.

“Good research takes time, teamwork and dedication,” Barbaux said during CALM’s official opening event today. “All of these attributes have been clearly demonstrated by the community of Exeter to make this centre a reality, and I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.”

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At the CALM opening ceremony, EADS Innovation Works head Yann Barbaux underscored the facility’s role as an element in the global research strategy of EADS.

ALM is a modern fabrication process in which three dimensional parts are produced by the build-up of two-dimensional layers, offering the possibility of making components lighter and stronger – while also bringing products from the design stage to market more rapidly. ALM also has the potential to significantly reduce energy consumption and waste in manufacturing

Ian Risk, the Head of EADS Innovation Works UK, said that while EADS has been investing in ALM technology for many years, it realised the need to promote interest in academia and a wider community to advance an understanding of the process itself, the materials that could be utilised, and – very importantly – to stimulate the marketplace for the technology.

“This was when the concept of CALM was born, and Exeter was the natural partner for us,” he added.

Risk noted that introducing a new manufacturing process such as ALM in the aerospace industry often takes significant time to ensure that development can be fully tested, understood and certified for use in products that often have lifetimes of 30 years or more.

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High-temperature thermoplastics are processed by the CALM centre’s EOS P800 Additive Layer Manufacturing system, which is the only one of its type within the UK.

“Herein lays our problem: we have a new and exciting technology that could change the way in which we operate and with the performance of our products, while facing a potential generation gap in the time to deploy it,” Risk added. “In those crucial industrial ‘gap’ years, we have to stimulate the market so that equipment manufacturers, materials suppliers and the engineers of the future will be equipped to service our needs at the right time, when we are ready.”

With CALM, many of the early adopters of ALM will be able to pursue “industrial trailblazing,” helping to mature the supply chain with the participation of businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers.

The £2.6 million CALM facility already has brought together an array of leading-edge machinery for 3D printing, laser sintering, laser melting and deposition/extrusion processes – including a high-temperature additive manufacturing system for high performance plastics.