– changing the face of innovation, a market projected to be worth over 200 billion US dollars.
AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science research centre headquartered at Trinity College Dublin, has announced a new additive manufacturing (AM, commonly known as 3D printing) research laboratory.
The AR-Lab (Additive Research Laboratory) was established with a €4.3 million investment from Science Foundation Ireland and the European Research Council as well as strategic funding from Trinity and the institutional support these large initiatives require. The AR-Lab will focus on world-leading research that will innovate new materials, printing methods and extend the capability of 2D and 3D printing to enable revolutionary, new medical, electronic, mechanical, optical, acoustic, heat transfer, and sensing devices.
Additive manufacturing refers to technology that can produce 3 dimensional objects via layer by layer deposition of materials. This approach allows the fabrication of complex shapes, forms and designs without the need for complex moulds, forming or subtractive shaping. It will be a major driver of technologies such as the internet-of-things, wearable and flexible devices as well as personalised healthcare products. Additive manufacturing will change how goods are produced in the future with a shift in emphasis from mass production to mass customisation where bespoke products can be manufactured at scale for low cost. AMBER will partner with existing and new industry partners enabling next generation products from innovative SMEs and Multinationals. AMBER’s AR-Lab features a combination of both Irish and world first equipment and 3D printers – allowing industry a unique partnership opportunity.
The SFI Research Centre AMBER has invested in a suite of 3D printing technologies which spans the full spectrum of materials from ceramics, metals to polymers and biomaterials. The ability to 3D print ceramic materials is of particular interest. These materials have application in a wide range of sectors from telecommunications to biomedical implants but, due to current constraints on manufacturing techniques, are limited in their use and performance. For example, it is envisioned that advanced free-form lightweight 3D printed ceramic objects could ultimately be used in the future as orthopedic implants designed to promote tissue and bone growth. Other applications for AM can be found in aerospace, defence, automotive, healthcare, and other industries. This is due to its many advantages, including design flexibility, product customisation, and minimisation of material waste, compared to subtractive manufacturing. The use of additive manufacturing also has the potential to add significant advancement to medical device development, as geometries will no longer be constrained to the limited base stock (i.e. flats sheets or circular tubes) that components are machined from.
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD commented, “Additive manufacturing has grown from strength to strength in the last number of years and I am delighted to see Ireland once again keeping pace with these disruptive technologies. AMBER’s new additive research lab highlights another new market entry for Ireland – one of crucial importance for industry in the future. With potential applications in industries such as healthcare and automotive, this is another great opportunity for Ireland to grow our global reputation for excellent and impactful research.”
Dr Patrick Prendergast, Trinity’s Provost said, “Additive manufacturing is being hailed as part of the ‘fourth industrial revolution”, marked by emerging technologies including nanotechnology, bio-technology, and the internet of things. However, the materials and techniques needed to progress from a niche area into widespread application requires intense research. The opening of this laboratory Trinity is an exciting development and will allow AMBER to undertake world leading research that will sponsor innovation and allow Ireland to exploit the technologies to deliver economic and societal benefits for the country
Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the establishment of a new additive manufacturing laboratory at the AMBER SFI Research Centre through the latest SFI Infrastructure Call. Ireland has built a reputation for cutting edge science and engineering and now attracts top international talent from across the globe. We are also educating the next generation of innovators here. However, this knowledge base must be underpinned by state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Such infrastructure, provided by Science Foundation Ireland, provides the scientific community with the platforms they require for continued progress and achievement.”
Professor Michael Morris, AMBER Director said, “AMBER’s AR-Lab will be a pivotal component of AMBER’s research focused on the fundamental material science challenges associated with 3D printing e.g. the range and complexity of the materials that can be printed, the size of these features and how a number of material sets can be integrated into a functioning device. We have invested in a customised suite of 3D printing technology which spans the full spectrum of materials from ceramics and metals to polymers and biomaterials. This investment will play a leading role in the emerging 3D printing national research ecosystem. It will enable AMBER to build on our foundation of innovative excellence in materials science and become leaders in this emerging technology which is critical to the manufacturing industries that support the Irish economy.
The size of the AM market is projected to reach $0.2 to 0.6 trillion (US Dollars) by 2025, with between 30 – 65% cost savings for the industrial sectors adopting it.
AMBER’s AR-Lab has been enabled by a €3.3 million award from SFI as part of their Research Infrastructure program and an additional €1 million investment from the European Research Council.