SME manufacturers are to pioneer an innovative, high impact programme designed to upskill their workforces to accelerate the adoption and application of additive manufacturing (AM).
They are part of the Fast Track Additive Manufacturing - Upskilling the Workforce programme, run in collaboration with the Made Smarter North West adoption pilot, which connects the region’s manufacturers to digital tools, leadership and skills to drive growth, Manchester Metropolitan University’s PrintCity, and Fabricon Design Ltd, a business specialising in advanced manufacturing methods.
The flexible, modular training aims to give participants a solid grounding in all aspects of AM, from understanding the entire digital workflow end-to-end, including the software and hardware, to the range of materials that can be used to create products or parts, and post-processing skills.
Companies participating in the programme have upskilling needs, either due to having installed AM recently in their organisation or to gain a deeper understanding of the benefits before making an investment decision. They include: Fabricon Design (Ashton-under-Lyne), Rotite Technologies (Stretford), Visual Architects (Hyde), MSM aerospace fabricators (Middleton), Arden Dies (Stockport), RPS precision engineering (Whitworth), Electro-Mechanical Installations (Stockport), Embossing Rollers (Heywood), M&I Materials (Stretford), Rawwater Engineering Company (Manchester), Bounce Cycles (Chorley) and BEP Surface Technologies (Radcliffe).
The programme supports the need for relevant and easily digestible training for upskilling and reskilling SMEs, one of the key recommendations of the Made Smarter Review, the independent review of industrial digitalisation.
Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter’s specialist organisational and workforce development adviser, said: “This pioneering programme is designed to provide businesses with the skills required to understand what AM technology they should invest in, why they should invest, how they design products for AM and operate the machines, and what benefits they can expect once they have successfully adopted AM. Businesses will provide real world examples as training material so that the course will address their specific skills gaps.”
“Working in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University’s PrintCity and Fabricon Design, we have designed a programme which aims to be high impact and flexible to enable additive manufacturing techniques and the associated design and post-processing skills to be implemented relatively quickly to accelerate productivity improvements within existing operations and develop new products and new markets.”
The blended learning approach will include online workshops and in-person site visits to Fabricon Design’s facility in Ashton-under-Lyne and STFC Daresbury. There are also onsite sessions at PrintCity, a 3D additive and digital manufacturing hub at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Workshops include: rapid prototyping, parametric modelling, Finite Element Analysis (FEA), AM polymer and part consolidation, generative design. There will be software tutorials in CAD CAM, Fusion 360, Eiger, Cura and PreForm, and an exploration of career opportunities and the future of AM.
Mark Bushdyhan, Managing Director of Fabricon Design, based in Hyde, said: “Fabricon Design will be providing real world engineering challenges so students can see how we are using additive manufacturing alongside other manufacturing techniques.
“We will be showing students how we use a range of CAD software, additive manufacturing technologies, and worked examples of how Fusion360 optimises design. The students will also spend a day at our manufacturing facility experiencing production from concept, prototype to full scale manufacture.”
Alan Dempsey, Project Manager for PrintCity, said: “Businesses across the region are actively exploiting the opportunities presented by AM now more than ever. Many companies have had their businesses disrupted by COVID-19 which has affected staffing, sales, manufacturing and effects on their supply chain.
“Some companies have used this time to rethink their business model and supply chain, deciding to innovate their traditional workflows with AM and converging design and manufacturing of their products in-house. However, many businesses, particularly SMEs, don’t currently have the skills to leverage the benefits of AM. This programme will provide a solid foundation for participants to integrate AM, boosting productivity and growth within their company.”
Additive manufacturing is one of the key enablers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, presenting an opportunity to radically transform the industry by changing the limits of what can be physically and economically produced.
The Made Smarter Review found that the UK is among the world’s leaders in the research, innovation and adoption of AM technology for high-performance applications in medicine, aerospace and other industry sectors. However, SMEs lack the awareness, resources or confidence to adopt AM as an integral part of their manufacturing toolkit.*
The Fast Track Additive Manufacturing programme has been funded by from the £3m Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund, a joint venture between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership to address the digital skills gaps across Greater Manchester and Lancashire.