A team of graduates from the University of Bristol has developed a new type of 3D printer that can be faster and more effective than today’s systems.

3D printers can be slow and inflexible, often using only one type of print head and one type of material. Switching these can be time consuming.

The team developed a multifunctional 3D-printing system called OMNI that can change tools automatically and incorporate other processes to allow for the production of stronger, more functional parts at a greater speed than ordinary printers. It combines 3D printing, milling, component placement and accurate measurement (metrology) on a single programmable platform to make it easy to use.

Building on the prototype

omni-bristol-universityThey have won £20,000 and a place on a scheme for technology startups after pitching their idea against teams from other universities across the UK.  Alex Michaels, Ed Cooper, Glen Cahill and Jack Pearson are using the funding to get OMNI started. The funding comes from JISC, the UK higher education not-for-profit organisation for digital services and solutions.

OMNI began as a final year Engineering Design project, supported by the Manufacturing Technology Centre. The team recognised the educational potential of the prototype, allowing students to produce designs and have hands-on manufacturing experience without technician training.

“We are tremendously excited about the prospect of using the start-up as a platform for engaging school and college students”

 

“It was fantastic to be able to use our final year project to develop our start-up idea,” said Ed Cooper. “The need to address the commercial opportunities and constraints of a real design problem within the project really helped identify how we could develop routes to market.

“We are tremendously excited about the prospect of using the start-up as a platform for engaging school and college students with engineering and the future of manufacturing technologies.”

A recent study by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) found that 59 per cent of graduates lack the practical skills that are needed by the UK’s manufacturing industry. The team hope to tackle this problem through increased machine access and by providing engaging learning tools. Their long-term ambition is to bring OMNI to schools and universities across the UK to help improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) engagement.

You can keep up-to-date with more Bristol University research at University of Bristol News. You can also follow the University of Bristol on Twitter at: @BristolUni

Nick Flaherty