Additive manufacturing has made an enormous difference to manufacturers. Almost all the world’s largest industrial organisations have invested heavily in the technology, with machine and equipment vendors. The cost has significantly dropped over the past five years, while additive’s capabilities and real-world use-cases have boomed.
When businesses were asked if they use any element of additive manufacturing or 3D printing, more than two-thirds (69%) said yes, and the range of benefits they derived from it is impressive.
The flexibility additive now brings was highest rated benefit at 54%, followed by reductions in production, cycle time and costs at 46%.
Improvements in accuracy (38%), increased output (30%) and improved quality (23%) all point to the power of additive to improve manufacturing performance.
In line with responses to recent reports on automation, only a handful of businesses (15%) said they saw addictive manufacturing as a way to reduce staff costs.
A £1.8m investment in a custom-built finish machining facility will enable a West Midlands company to become a fully integrated supplier of grey iron bearing housings for engine turbochargers. The Investment at Chamberlin & Hill Castings Ltd will see the installation of three high specification Chiron Scherer Feinbau automated mill/turn centres supplied by the Wellesbourne based Engineering Technology Group.
Three Chiron machining cells were ordered, two of which were commissioned in February 2017, with a third scheduled to arrive in November this year. The capacity provided by these three machines has already been sold, bringing about additional revenue worth several million pounds per year. The company is currently machining one turbo bearing housing every 81 seconds per cell floor-to-floor time.
The order books of UK manufacturers are at a multi-decade high, according to the CBI’s latest Industrial Trends Survey. The survey of almost 500 UK manufacturing companies found that total order books climbed to the highest level since August 1988.
Export orders also improved to a 22-year high, hitting similar peaks to those seen in 2011 and 2013.
Output growth eased to the levels seen at the start of the year, on the back of slowdowns in the chemicals and mechanical engineering sectors, though remained robust historically. Firms expect a firm rise in production over the coming quarter.
Pricing pressures remain strong, with manufacturers continuing to expect a sharp rise in average selling prices, in line with the level seen last month. Stock adequacy dipped marginally, remaining below average.
27% of manufacturers reported total order books to be above normal, and 12% said they were below normal, giving a rounded balance of +16%. This was the highest level seen in nearly three decades, since August 1988 (+17%)
23% of firms said their export order books were above normal, and 10% said they were below normal, giving a balance of +13%. This was the highest balance since June 1995 (+20%)
30% of businesses said the volume of output over the past three months was up, and 15% said it was down, giving a balance of +15% – a decline from the balance of +28% seen in May
Manufacturers expect output to grow at the same robust pace in the coming quarter, with 37% predicting growth, and 9% a decline, giving a rounded balance of+27%
Average selling prices are still expected to rise in line with the level seen in May (+23%), haying eased from their peak in February (+32%)
13% of firms said their present stocks of finished goods are more than adequate, while 11% said they were less adequate, giving a balance of +2%, remaining below the average (+13%).
Innovate UK has announced of up to £10m in grant funding for businesses working on robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) technologies designed for extreme and challenging environments. The funding is an effort to encourage and Stimulate the development of robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) technologies that would be used across the off-shore and nuclear energy, space and deep mining application and other hazardous environments.
Microsoft and Tenova (Techint Group) have launched an integrated system based on advanced technologies in an effort to help iron and steel manufacturers boost performance, competitiveness and data-enabled insights.
The system is based on three core elements: sensors/actuators, decentralised intelligence, and supplier customer interaction – with the objective of accelerating digital transformation and business productivity. The combination of these three elements reportedly will allow plant machines to manage specific productive processes, as well as to provide the operators or Al algorithms with specific information on their own conditions detected autonomously – through dedicated measurements and reporting with respect to specific events.
By evaluating the information derived from sensors, it will explain in real time the possible behavioural scenarios, providing functions of monitoring and predictive maintenance. The system may also make available the opportunity to reset specific configurations automatically or to modify functioning parameters to achieve the optimal configuration of the plant.