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Additive manufacturing is an ace card

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Unless they adopt additive manufacturing by 2025, British companies will not be winners in the global high-value manufacturing race

This is the title, or ‘motion’, of the panel I’m chairing at this year’s TCT Show (an event to accelerate 3D printing, additive manufacturing and product development) and it’s a critical debate for the UK and for its manufacturers.

The TCT Show and the TCT Awards provide a superb platform for energising and inspiring businesses with insightful and provocative debate as well as with well-deserved celebration and awards.

Hand holding four aces playing cards

No longer a niche technology

Additive manufacturing is no longer just a niche technology for rapid prototyping and tooling, it has entered the mainstream and is set to become the ace card, the most powerful piece of kit in the toolbox. Not that it will replace conventional manufacturing technologies overnight.

But it will certainly displace them and we may face the prospect of many smaller or specialist companies becoming fatally uncompetitive, almost overnight, if they sit in blissful ignorance or fail to act in the shadow of this displacement.

Additive manufacturing offers a competitive advantage

The other side of the story is at the top end of the chain, the top tier and original equipment manufacturers whose names are known around the world. Because of what it can do for design, materials, functional performance and manufacturing flexibility, this technology is capable of leveraging competitive advantage for whole new product propositions.

So smart companies are now investing in radical new approaches to product design and reshaping their manufacturing footprints, whilst their less dynamic competitors stand to lose out.

Publicising success is essential

Innovate UK, working with our Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), has a clear mission to encourage companies and entrepreneurial individuals of all shapes and sizes to explore and commercialise the exciting opportunities afforded by additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Rewarding and publicising success is an essential ingredient to accelerating adoption and industrial scale-up.

We are therefore delighted to be partnering with The TCT Group in this, the first year of the TCT Awards, and look forward to congratulating the winners and thanking them for their contribution in taking the UK into manufacturing’s exciting new world to seize its opportunities.

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