3D printing breakthrough at science park

Published on: 02 Dec 2013

TWO companies based at the Bristol& Bath Science Park in Emersons Green are breaking new ground in 3D printing – the process of building objects layer on layer rather than cutting, drilling and bolting pieces together.

While 3D printing has been around for some years and has the potential to completely reshape product development, it isn’t yet repeatable on a large scale, meaning it cannot be used to mass-produce objects.

Additive manufacturing company Hieta and software developer Sysemia are now working with international technology company Renishaw to find ways of scaling up the process.

Funding has been provided by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board – an organisation set up by Government to stimulate and support business-led innovation. The project is developing recuperators, devices that recover waste heat in engines, using the project.

The aim is to be producing 50,000 recuperators per year within three to five years.

Mike Adams, chief executive officer at Hieta Technologies, said: “One of the biggest challenges our industry faces is how to commercialise 3D printed products. We expect this project to completely redefine the boundaries of additive manufacturing and prove that a large number of the same object can be produced at a competitive cost.

“We moved to the science park because we wanted to be somewhere which nurtured new ideas and gave us the opportunity to work with like-minded organisations.

“Within a few months of being here we had struck up a relationship with Sysemia and we quickly realised that we could work together to develop this project with Renishaw.

“We are a young and vibrant company and we want to attract the best people, so Bristol is a good fit for us. It means we can tap into the high proportion of graduates and post-graduates in the city.”

Hieta Technologies was founded two years ago and started with a virtual office at the park before moving to a bigger six-person office in October. It plans to move to a bigger office in the New Year.

Bonnie Dean, chief executive of the Bristol & Bath Science Park, said: “Hieta is a great example of how ground breaking projects can be born out of serendipitous meetings at the science park.”

Hieta started out producing heat exchangers for engines using the additive manufacturing process but has now diversified and produces a wide range of engineering products for a number of industries including automotive, aerospace and general manufacturing.

Mike Adams continued: “One of the great advantages of 3D printing is that it’s less wasteful than traditional manufacturing techniques because you don’t need to cut or remove materials in order to create an object. It also has the potential to create lighter and more efficient products.

“The possibilities are endless. Imagine a situation where the whole world can take part in this process, with 3D printing being done at home, in the office, at hospitals and in schools. This could open the doors to all sorts of every day products being ‘printed’ by anyone who has access to the technology.”

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