Project Gen3D

Project: Central government, health and local authorities

Description

Additive manufacturing (AM), often referred to as 3D-printing, is disrupting the way products and components are designed and manufactured. As AM processes manufacture components one layer at a time, complex geometries can be created without the added complexity of having to program the AM machine. Designers are now using these processes to produce previously unthinkable components with staggering performance benefits. However, these benefits often come at significant cost.

Market research suggests that the design of a complex AM component may take eight weeks to perfect, including between three and ten manufacturing iterations to develop a production-ready design. Furthermore, large AM components can spend as many as 30 days on the printer. Manufacturing failures can occur at any time within this window and often do. When this is combined with the significant capital investment requirements for an AM process and the inflated cost of powdered materials, these failures can stretch cash-flow and production schedules to breaking point.

Research at the University of Bath has developed a series of algorithms to automatically design components for AM processes. This means that components can be designed simply by specifying the functional requirements for the part (loads, holes for fastenings, keep-out zones, ducts for fluid flow etc.). Additionally, the algorithms automatically filter out component geometries that are likely to cause downstream manufacturing issues. This 'generative design' tool empowers engineers to rapidly create complex designs whilst minimising the risk of in-print failures.

The ICURe programme allowed us to test our market hypotheses regarding the need for such a product and identify potential end-users. Initial engagement with companies confirmed that there is an appetite for a generative design tool with a focus on manufacturing constraints. This direct feedback from industry helped to formulate the initial business model to commercialise the underpinning research. This culminated in the recommendation to 'spin out' by the ICURe programme review panel, which has led to the incorporation of a new start-up, Gen3D Ltd.

This ambitious project aims to grow the Gen3D business, validate the associated business model and use further academic research at the University of Bath to build credibility in the Gen3D software product. This project will drive growth in terms of Gen3D employees, taking the product to market and engagement with target customers. Through software sales, tailored consultancy and up-skilling of customers through training, we aim to establish Gen3D as an exciting new company within the global AM market.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/11/1831/07/19