UK 3D printing is getting a boost from Runcorn-based LPW Technology which is building a new facility to help focus on powder design and process data to improve additive manufactured (AM) parts. Liz Nickels spoke to its CEO about the next steps for this industry.

LPW Technology, which makes specialized metal powder for additive manufacturing (AM), is one of the UK's major players in the 3D printing industry. This year it has been included in the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 for the second year running. The league table ranks Britain's private technology, media and telecoms (TMT) companies with the fastest-growing sales.

The company is also building a new £20 million facility in the UK to produce the next generation of premium, AM-specific metal alloys. The ‘factory of the future’ will open in February 2018, enabling the company to make metal powders on-site in the city Liverpool, and in October this year its US operation will be moving to larger premises.

LPW, as a producer of metal powders, is keen to stress the importance of powder design to optimize the manufacture and final properties of 3D printed parts. To this end, it has recently created a research chair focusing on the essentials of powder design. The LPW/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in ‘Alloy and microstructure design for additive layer manufacturing’, located at Lancaster University, is aimed at capitalizing on the potential of metal powder for AM.

The post has been filled by Professor Pedro Rivera who was previously assistant director of research, SKF University Technology Centre, Cambridge University where his focus has been on modelling to generate new alloys. He plans to research ways of engineering new materials to harness the power of thermodynamic and kinetic modelling, along with the concept of neural networking and genetic algorithms to design AM specific alloys.

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