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Recently, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans for developing a new center dedicated to 3D printing. 15 Million pounds of government funds will be invested in the facility which will build parts for aero-engines and aircraft landing gear, as well as automotive and medical devices. It will be located next to the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry. The MTC has its own 3D printing facilities, but the new center will be exclusively dedicated to the technology.
The UK's aerospace industry is the biggest in Europe and is second only to the United States worldwide. In spite of bad economic times and intense competition, this sector of their economy is thriving, and they are determined to keep it that way. Aerospace contributes 24 billion pounds to their economy every year, and the civil aerospace market is projected to grow in excess of 4.4 trillion dollars by 2031.
The investment in the new 3D printing facility is only the latest funding in support of their aerospace sector. In March 2013, 2 billion pounds were invested in aerospace research and development by the government and industry to take advantage of new technologies.
Aerospace 3d printing isn't new to the British, given it's use in a number of their manufacturing applications in recent years, most notably by Airbus, BAE Systems, and Rolls Royce. The Tornado jet fighter recently completed a successful test flight using 3D printed parts and is claimed to be the first combat aircraft to do so. The parts included landing gear components and a cockpit radio cover.
Significantly, the parts didn't come from a specialized production facility but were manufactured on site at the Royal Air Force base. This capability suggests the savings of hundreds of thousands of pounds each year in maintenance and refit costs. For the Royal Air Force, which operates overseas at locations remote from traditional parts suppliers, this localized parts manufacturing capability is game changing.