Could Additive Manufacturing help fuel the Northern Powerhouse?

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Brian Miller

Yesterday I attended both the NAFEMS European Conference on Simulation-Based Optimisation and a business event at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) called “Supporting North West Businesses to Future Proof the Northern Powerhouse”.

Both made more than a passing reference to additive manufacturing.


The Northern Powerhouse concept was first introduced by the then Chancellor George Osbourne in 2014. At MMU, key note presentations from Andy Burnham, MP and Sean Anstee, Leader of Trafford Council, emphasised the opportunities that initial devolvement through Mayoral elections next May will offer to drive this forward despite recently reported ‘wobbles’ by the current government.

Much of the discussion stemmed from the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review, published on 30th June 2016.

Four strategic capabilities for the North identified to underpin the powerhouse were Advanced Manufacturing, Digital Development, Health Innovation and Energy. Improved East-West transport links, upskilling and strengthened financial and professional services are seen as key enablers to support this growth.

Further details on the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review can be found here. Within Advanced Manufacturing there is a focus on materials and processes, with 3D printing / additive manufacturing (AM) seen to be a disruptive technology.

Case studies presented at NAFEMS earlier in the day certainly demonstrated how AM can radically change how products are designed and produced.

Unlike other ‘traditional’ manufacturing processes that pre-date the evolution of computer-aided engineering, simulation has been around since the start of AM and indeed is a key enabler for this digital process. This includes simulating the AM processes to resolve issues of distortion, residual stress and unfavourable microstructure in addition to design optimisation.

Both topological and parametric optimisation has been around a long time within FEA and CFD circles but is still only pro-actively undertaken by a small fraction of engineers with access to simulation capabilities. Expect this to change quickly now for any companies investigating how AM can be used for production parts.

As somebody involved in simulation for 25 years and living in the North West, it would be particularly satisfying if optimisation–led AM can help the Northern Powerhouse become a reality.

Brian Miller, Sales & Marketing Director

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