£3million 3D printing initiative to help Greater Manchester firms

Stephen Chapman's picture
by Stephen Chapman

Manchester Metropolitan University is behind a £3.2m 3D printing initiative to help SMEs.

The PrintCity Network launches this month and will help companies to understand and utilise 3D printing technology to develop new products and services.

“More and more businesses have been looking to adopt digital manufacturing techniques, particularly during the pandemic,” explained Professor Craig Banks, Academic Lead for PrintCity.

“With many traditional supply chains being disrupted, SMEs have turned to PrintCity to use new methods of design and manufacturing during this difficult time, with many needing our support to adopt these new approaches.  

“PrintCity has been supporting SMEs since its inception in 2018, utilising existing business support programmes such as the GC Business Growth Hub and Made Smarter North West Pilot Programme.

“But now, with this new, fully-funded service available to Greater Manchester SMEs, PrintCity Network will help support more businesses to innovate, boosting productivity, growth and jobs within the region.”

The University’s PrintCity already offers a space for researchers, students, individuals and businesses to train or upskill, and access on-site 3D printing support and a commercial service to help make their manufacturing ambitions a reality. 

But PrintCity Network will take this one-step further, as it seeks to develop a network of 150 local SMEs and offer them fully-funded technical and business support during a period when finances might be tight.

Pennine Consultancy has already used the service to design a concept for a deaf-friendly face mask that incorporated a clear face panel to make lip reading possible.

“3D printing and vacuum foaming technology has been an absolutely essential element to the development of our product. It has allowed us to do our proof-of-concept and to rapidly produce the prototypes that we have needed efficiently,” said David Butler, Director at Pennine Consultancy.

“The support of PrintCity has been invaluable, giving us access to both the expertise and technology needed to design a product, which is not only fit-for-purpose, but suitable for the current market.”

The project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, with the University matching the funding to £3.2m.

“In the current climate it will be essential to have a strong base of innovation ready businesses across Greater Manchester, in order to support our economy to recover post COVID-19,” added Mandy Parkinson, Head of Business and Public Engagement at Manchester Metropolitan.

“We see the PrintCity Network as being a key player in helping the Greater Manchester business community in this and we will provide SMEs with a commercially proven step-by-step innovation process, with an end result of either having a product, service or process launchable.”

PrintCity Network launches this month, with the first cohort of SMEs in April 2021 being provided with support.

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