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Leading the way in manufacturing revolution

01 November 2013


A Teesside University academic is part of a European project which is developing a roadmap that aims to revolutionise the future of manufacturing.

Professor Zulfiqur Ali, Dean of the University’s Graduate Research School, is a specialist in micro and nanofabrication.

He is part of the Innovation for Digital Fabrication (DIGINOVA) project which is examining how digital fabrication will transform the nature of global manufacturing with an increasing influence on a wide range of areas, including positive benefits for health.

Digital fabrication uses computer-controlled tools and novel processes to transform digital designs directly into useful physical products.

Using digital data, 3D printers print multiple thin layers of materials such as polymer or metal which are then fused by lasers to form solid objects. Traditional mass-manufacturing will move towards global distribution of digital design and specification files that will form the basis of local production. This will reduce manufacturing costs, allow a higher level of customisation, allow geometric freedom for manufacturing and design, simpler supply chain and provide on-demand production. The two year DIGINOVA project, which comprises experts from across seven European countries, is coming to a head with a conference on 6 November to discuss digital fabrication in Europe and potential applications within the biomedical field.

Professor Ali, who has more than 20 years’ experience developing biomedical applications, is one of the key speakers at the conference which is being held at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) National Printable Electronics Centre in the UK.

'This is a really exciting time for a number of sectors, including medical, consumer goods, food, electronics and vehicles, explained Professor Ali.

'The goal is to be able to create products that can be produced locally, at lower cost, with higher functionality, in a more sustainable way and help to bring manufacturing back into Europe.'

The DIGINOVA project is being led by OCE TECHNOLOGIES B.V. in The Netherlands, part of the Canon group, and is being funded under the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7 under the Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies Materials and New Production Technologies theme. The DIGINOVA consortium consists of four large companies, seven small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and nine research institutes. Other participants in the UK include the Centre for Process Innovation Limited (CPI) and the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.