Covid lessons are helping a Peterborough company to change the future of manufacturing

Innovative 3D printing experts at Photocentric in Peterborough have manufactured more than two million face shields for health workers.

Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 4:35 am
3D printing experts Photocentric.

The triple Queen’s Award winning company turned its expertise to manufacturing personal protective equipment for care workers at the start of the Covid outbreak.

Now the company, based in Oxney Road, says the lessons from the Covid crisis that has allowed to it reach the new milestone will enable it to create a new mass manufacturing process free from the constraints of import shortages and a reliance on equipment that is also often made overseas.

The company is also set to use its expertise in the creation of a new UK Centre of Excellence in Peterborough and in the education provided at the planned University of Peterborough.

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Paul Holt, founder of Photocentric said: “In the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis, the UK faced a shortage of PPE for front line health staff.

“This shortage was tackled in a small way by 3D printed PPE.

“Initially this was done by individuals, but Photocentric became the first company to mass manufacture face shields.

“We have seen how we can create plastic parts, instantly, in volume and at low cost, freeing us from imported product shortages and the reliance on tooling, often made in Asia.

“A few weeks ago we passed the milestone of making two million face shields- all with 3D printed parts made here in Peterborough, using 3D printers and resin that we made in the same building.

Mr Holt said: “This was an incredible learning process for us during which we have made many interesting discoveries.

“Our engineers have at times worked long days, seven days a week enabling us to come up with an alternative to injection moulding.

“Without the ability to print millions of items of PPE to help in the pandemic we wouldn’t have had the focus or dedication to make this happen.

“We have now developed a disruptive new process that we will enable the world to make a huge number of items, creating benefits to manufacturing, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Covid.”

Photocentric will use its new found expertise to power its new UK Centre of Excellence for 3D printing that will be built in Peterborough and is expected to open in December next year.

Mr Holt said: “It will be the first facility of its kind in the world enabling digital manufacture of plastic in scale.

“We are working with some of the largest manufacturing companies in the world to integrate this new technology into their operations dovetailing it into their injection moulding production.

“It will further our ambitions to become a world leader in novel manufacturing, bringing companies from all over the world to Peterborough and in doing so putting the UK at the centre of digital manufacturing.”

Mr Holt said that Photocentric was also looking to play a key role in the new University of Peterborough.

He said: “Photocentric has a corporate core value of strengthening scientific and particularly engineering education in this country and wishes to become a partner to the University in as deep a capacity as possible.

“We have around 30 scientists working here today in research.

“In chemistry, where we are the world leaders in visible light polymerisation and we create new resins for 3D printing.

“We partner with BASF, the largest chemical company in the world, to develop these chemistry and apply them to industrial applications.

“In engineering, we design and manufacture all of our 3D printers here in Peterborough using our patented LCD screen technology.

”We write our code using our in house software team and of course our technicians are constantly printing many different parts for many applications.

“This is our vision of how we enable digital manufacturing and its radically different to the CNC machining courses of the past.

“We want to empower students with the digital skills that enable them to print products in an Industry 4.0.”