Innovation is a core component of the government's bid to 'Build Back Better' as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. But for manufacturers across Yorkshire and the Humber, this is simply a continuation of what they've always done. And a primary reasons why, despite the resulting economic disruption, many are seeing strong growth.
Doncaster-based precision engineering company Agemaspark, is putting its new 3D metal printing technique into practice, resulting in major reductions in cycle times for multi-impression mould tools.
Agemaspark developed the technique over several years to improve the efficiency of a mould tool by as much as 20 per cent and invested in the 3D metal printing machine, EOS 290.
Speaking to Insider, managing director Paul Stockhill explains: "In essence, this technology has been around for some time in the aerospace and miltary sectors. But in 2004 I got involved with TWI and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield. We developed some turbine engine repair technology for Rolls-Royce over a three-year-period.
"Over the preceding years this technology continued to develop, ad we were seeing lots of different things come out of it. I then had a eureka moment where I watched a promotional video of the EOS machine showing how to use this technology within mould tools, and how it reduced cycle times and improved quality. I saw this and my imagination took over."
At that time Stockhill also found that the 3D printing technology could significantly save on water. "Instead of using tens of thousands of litres of cooling water per 24 hours, we can individually bring that down to five or 20 litres."
Agemaspark has now completed extensive trials on conformal cooling of multi-impression plastic injection mould tools and is working with companies across Yorkshire using the technique to produce their components, helping its customers to comply with new EU regulations.
"We worked with a local company in Doncaster. The company said they've got a new (drinks) cap that they're developing but there's a new EU regulation stating that caps have got to be tethered to the bottles. so it can be automated to be recycled.
"We put this tool together for them. With the conventional tools they would run in an estimated 5.5-6 second cycles. With our tool they've come back to 3.2-3.5 seconds bringing 20 per cent savings."
The new process will offer innovative ways to make intricate inserts that can be processed with cooling not currently possible without using expensive heat transfer materials.