The deadline for the submission of Expressions of Interest to the EPSRC’s “Energy Resilient Manufacturing” call was today. Here at Bit by Bit we realised that we should submit something given the overlap between the call and additive manufacturing, and the relatively low effort involved in submitting a proposal.
As the call described:
Research ideas should have the potential to revolutionise the usage and management of energy in the manufacturing industry, significantly reducing the need for energy as an input to the manufacturing process and/or increasing the resilience of manufacturing to uncertainties in the energy supply.
Developing some initial ideas led to five project ideas, three of which spoke directly to 3D printing. We expanded upon these three ideas as far as possible within the very short word limit of the Expression of Interest form. Here are the three proposals we developed, each of which provides (1) a summary of the idea, and (2) an explanation of how the idea fits the scope of the call.
Idea: 3D printing allows the on-demand manufacture of customised products. How does its potential for more localised production, lower design complexity and replacement parts help decouple economic growth from energy consumption?
Fit to call scope: The adoption of 3D printing by UK industry could transform supply chains and dramatically reduce energy consumption across the manufacturing network. More localised production and lower design complexity will create shorter supply chains, with the reduced number of production and transportation stages leading to step-changes in energy consumption.
Idea: How does the distributed and localised nature of 3D printing improve UK manufacturing’s resilience to energy disruptions? This project will focus on the manufacturing flexibility offered by 3D printing.
Fit to call scope: Individual, smaller-scale 3D printing sites have lower energy requirements than conventional manufacturing. A distributed network of 3D printing sites could allow production to be better matched to available energy supply, thereby improving the resilience of UK manufacturing to disruptions in energy supply.
Idea: 3D printing allows replacement components to be produced at lower cost, enabling repairs that were previously economically unattractive. Remanufacturing and service-based business models with lower energy requirements may be realised.
Fit to call scope: Extending product life through the use of 3D printed replacement components reduces the need for new products to be manufactured, significantly reducing energy consumption in the manufacturing system. The 3D printing of replacement components may enable a ‘design for repair’ ethos and new service-based business models to emerge.
While we think that each of these are worth exploring, we were unfortunately limited to the submission of just one proposal. Of the three it was Proposal 1 that we decided to submit. We now wait to see if we’re accepted to pitch our project idea at one of the events later this month.
Image source: http://white-white.deviantart.com/art/Energy-255906119