UWE's 3D print experts link up with engineering firm Renishaw

Issue date: 15 August 2011

Art meets science with the start of a three-year £178,000 Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between print experts from the University of the West of England and precision engineering firm Renishaw. UWE's expertise in 3D printing will help Renishaw reduce costs and enter new markets by making full use of its rapid 3D prototyping equipment in the design and manufacture of new products.

UWE MA Printmaking graduate Sophie Adams-Foster has recently been appointed as KTP associate on the project. She said, “This is a unique partnership and I am thoroughly excited with the opportunity to work with academic staff at UWE and the engineering department at Renishaw.

“From a creative perspective this project is an excellent opportunity to explore the integration of print techniques into new industrial manufacturing processes. Ultimately, I hope to investigate not only Additive Layering Manufacturing technologies but to also consider developing trends, smart materials and innovative approaches.”

Renishaw is an international company with its headquarters in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire. It designs and manufactures innovative instruments for measurement, motion control, spectroscopy, precision machining and the medical market. It has a strong commitment to research and development, manufactures primarily in the UK, and sells to both home and export markets.

Renishaw currently uses a technique called Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM), which builds up complex 3D shapes using a succession of layers, for rapid prototyping during the design process.

However the company knows there is a lot more potential for using this equipment in innovative ways. The project will increase its knowledge on enhanced uses for this equipment and its understanding of the properties of different materials. It will bring in UWE's Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR)'s unique blend of skills, including traditional print, cutting-edge research into 3D print, aesthetics and material properties. This could enable the company to expand into new markets, using ALM more fully in the design process and developing its use as a manufacturing technique for small and medium businesses.

UWE academic supervisor Dr Carinna Parraman said, “The CFPR's strengths lie in the methodological and communicative ability to bridge the gap between arts and industry. This partnership will assist in new opportunities to develop three-dimensional printing as a novel tool for the creative technologies. We are looking forward to the cross fertilisation of ideas with Renishaw and assisting this emerging technology towards the development of new materials and creative innovation in the design field.”

Renishaw's Group Engineering Director, Professor Geoff McFarland, said, “Renishaw is built on a culture of innovation focussed on developing patentable products and generating income through high value manufacturing. The company continually seeks new opportunities where its advanced engineering skills have potential to develop a unique product offering.

“This partnership will enable Renishaw to develop ALM technology to make it accessible to new markets such as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the creative industries. It will also help us to develop the technology to make it more application specific, therefore leading to an increased uptake of the technology.

Professor Steve Hoskins, director of UWE's CFPR, said, “The proposed partnership will embed expertise from an arts and print background to develop innovative products, opening up new markets to Renishaw. Alternative markets for rapid manufacturing technology could include museum conservation, 3D animation, design studios, consumer product design, model making and architecture.

“The project takes a creative approach to developing existing technology. As artists and print practitioners, our understanding of human factors that influence relationships with materials means we can introduce concepts such as aesthetics of materials, colour, surface texture, tactility, form fit and function, weight and user perception. This could lead to the modification of ALM machines and the use of non-standard materials in ALM processes such as ceramic or metal powders.”


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