AMBER Centre launches €4.3m additive manufacturing laboratory

1 Mar 2018

3D-printer head. Image: nikkytok/Shutterstock

The new AMBER laboratory will play a major role in the creation of innovative new devices.

The Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre, funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and headquartered at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), has announced the launch of a new additive manufacturing lab, which will create three-dimensional (3D) objects from a wide variety of materials.

The additive research (AR) lab was established with a €4.3m investment from SFI and the European Research Council, along with strategic funding from TCD itself.

Major possibilities ahead

The AR lab will focus on innovating new materials and printing methods, as well as boosting the existing capabilities of 2D and 3D printing.

New medical, electronic, acoustic, heat transfer and sensing devices are just some of the possibilities that lie ahead.

AMBER will partner with existing and new industry partners, and the AR lab will feature a combination of Irish and world-first equipment and 3D printers.

A broad spectrum of materials will be researched at the lab, from ceramics and metals to polymers and biomaterials. The ceramics field is uniquely important, as ceramic materials have applications in a huge range of sectors, from biomedical implants to telecoms, but present manufacturing constraints limit their performance and use.

With improvements in the field, lightweight, 3D-printed ceramic objects could eventually be used as orthopaedic implants to promote tissue and bone growth.

The automotive, aerospace, healthcare and defence industries are just a few sectors that could benefit from additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing is crucial for the future

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, said: “AMBER’s new additive research lab highlights another new market entry for Ireland, one of crucial importance for industry in the future. With potential applications in industries such as healthcare and automotive, this is another great opportunity for Ireland to grow our global reputation for excellent and impactful research.”

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI and chief scientific adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Ireland has built a reputation for cutting-edge science and engineering, and now attracts top international talent from across the globe. We are also educating the next generation of innovators here.”

Prof Ferguson noted that the impressive local knowledge base needs to be “underpinned by state-of-the-art facilities and equipment” in order for continued progress.

Material science challenges

Prof Michael Morris, AMBER director, said: “AMBER’s AR lab will be a pivotal component of AMBER’s research focused on the fundamental material science challenges associated with 3D printing, eg the range and complexity of the materials that can be printed, the size of these features and how a number of material sets can be integrated into a functioning device.

“We have invested in a customised suite of 3D-printing technology which spans the full spectrum of materials, from ceramics and metals to polymers and biomaterials. This investment will play a leading role in the emerging 3D-printing national research ecosystem.”

The equipment includes the Lithoz Cerafab 7500, a ceramic additive manufacturing tool specifically modified for AMBER, and a Nikon XTH225 ST, an essential non-destructive characterisation platform for evaluating the shape and structure of products fabricated through additional manufacturing.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects