Photocentric – the UK manufacturer of photopolymer 3D printers – and for some time also a large supplier of on-demand printed parts, has secured £ 2.5 million from the government institution Innovate UK under the ‘Sustainable Smart Factory’ program to lead the development of an innovative, autonomous process 3D printing with the use of recycled materials. Photocentric intends to create an economical and low-emission 3D printing process for polymer parts as a replacement for injection molding with a concept called “Low Energy Autonomous Digital” (LEAD).

Plastic injection molding is the most frequently chosen production method for the production of large batches of parts, however, in the case of low-volume production, additive manufacturing is a much more cost-effective process due to the lack of tooling costs in the form of injection molds. The environmental benefits of 3D printing are also significant due to fewer processes involved, less material consumption and lower energy consumption.

The heart of the LEAD project is the proprietary technology based on liquid crystal displays (LCD), which powers the arrays of 3D printers. The automated digital process uses single-pass production lines that start with a liquid resin at one end and autonomously deliver functional plastic items at the other, on a large scale.

The project will also compare the carbon footprint of traditional injection molding with 3D printing throughout its life cycle. Leading industry users will validate both methodologies: Games Workshop, the world’s leading figure maker, Essentra Components, one of the UK’s largest injection molding companies, and Unipart, a major first-tier manufacturing partner operating in the automotive, rail and many other sectors. The Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC) will perform the carbon footprint analysis of each process as an impartial third party.

At the same time, the innovative 3D printing process will enable the creation of useful parts from bio-waste and will provide an innovative, energy-efficient recycling process after the end of the life of thermosetting plastics.

The UK government has committed £ 14 million to projects that use digital technology to drive energy efficiency, productivity and growth in key manufacturing industries.

Photo: (press release / all rights reserved)

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