Innovate UK grant supports £2.5 million project lead by Photocentric to mass manufacture plastic parts sustainably using 3D printing 

Oct 17, 2022 | 3D Printing, Company News, Research

On demand parts, 3D printer and photopolymer resins manufacturer Photocentric has obtained backing from Innovate UK under the Sustainable Smart Factory investment to lead the development of a novel autonomous 3D printing process using recycled materials.

Photocentric aims to create a cost and carbon effective process for printing polymer parts as a replacement for Injection Moulding through their Low Energy Autonomous Digital (LEAD) factory concept.

Plastic injection moulding has been traditionally chosen as the preferred method of fabrication for large batches however in low volume applications, Additive Manufacturing (AM) has become more cost-effective, as there are no tooling costs to amortise over a batch.

The environmental benefits of AM are significant too, manufacturing at the point of need in only the required quantity without unnecessary shipping with reduced energy consumption and lighter parts.

At the heart of the LEAD project lies Photocentric’s disruptive Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology powering arrays of their 3D printers. This smart automated digital process uses single-flow production lines that start with liquid resin at one end and autonomously deliver functional plastic objects at the other, in scale.

This project will also compare the carbon footprint of traditional injection moulding manufacturing versus 3D printing throughout its life cycle. Leading industry users will validate both methodologies; Games Workshop, the world’s leading miniature manufacturer,  Essentra Components, one of the UK’s largest injection moulders and Unipart, a major first-tier manufacturing partner working across automotive, rail and many other sectors. The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) will be carrying out the carbon analysis derived from each process as an impartial third party.

Photocentric innovative process will create usable parts from bio waste and provide a novel energy-viable end-of-life recycling process for the thermoset plastics.

Digital manufacturing is a game-changer that will enable the UK to manufacture goods without reliance on labour or supply chains and will provide national resilience.

“We are thrilled to be part of the Smart Sustainable Factory and to be leading a project to build a greener Britain. We are manufacturing plastic parts from waste streams using low energy, reducing storage, minimising transport and materials,” said Paul Holt, CEO at Photocentric. “Thanks to the trust the UK government has placed in our technologies and thanks to Innovate UK financial backing, companies like Photocentric can develop strategic and sustainable innovation in manufacturing.”

The UK government has awarded £14 million to projects that harness digital technology to drive energy efficiency, productivity and growth across key manufacturing industries.

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