Sheffield 3D printers’ innovation set to stir up food production industry

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A Sheffield-based design and industrial 3D printing firm has created a revolutionary new way for the food industry to detect problems in the production process and embrace new technologies.

Addition Design, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park Technology Centre, has designed a new process that allows food manufacturers to access production parts that meet the stringent regulatory requirements of food production components whilst taking full advantage of industrial additive manufacturing.

The new Food Contact Blue parts by Addition Design’s AddParts service

The process extends Addition Design’s ‘AddParts’ service – which supplies digital spares for automated production lines through the use of 3D scanning, digital data management and industrial 3D printing – into the food processing sector.

The new technique addresses a number of renowned issues that affect the industry’s ability to fully embrace the benefits of industrial 3D printing while complying with food-safety regulations and production line efficiency needs including those of low-cost, fast turnaround, blue, food contact components.

Tom Fripp, director at Addition Design, explains: “If a component on a food production line fails, it is of course imperative that any parts of that item are stopped from getting into the final food product. One of the traditional routes to achieving this takes advantage of the fact that there are very few foods that are blue in colour so blue plastic component parts have historically been used on food production lines to make broken parts easy and quick to identify. This allows the line to be shut down for an investigation and parts to be replaced.

“However, when it comes to 3D printing, this requirement has acted as a barrier for the food industry, as there are very few ways to make cost-effective, high-quality certified, blue, food contact parts using industrial 3D printing processes. “Most approaches require the material itself to be blue which is an issue. It means the whole material stock then needs to be that colour, making the process often prohibitively expensive.”

The new process created by Addition Design exclusively for AddParts tackles the issue and aims to bring the food industry up to pace with the wider manufacturing industry’s move towards the use of industrial 3D printing.  Tom added: “We’re incredibly proud to have found a solution that works for all parties and, importantly, reduces the costs for food manufacturers which opens them up more to the possibilities and opportunities that industrial 3D printing brings.

“The particular process we have developed means that we can produce parts on demand for manufacturers, using our Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) machine and then post-process them in a way that means they still meet food contact requirements. Under our AddParts service, all the components are supplied with certification of conformity and traceability and now this is available for on-demand, hard-to-source and legacy components for food manufacturing too.

“The food and drinks industry is one of the largest sectors in UK manufacturing and our AddParts service compliments the industry perfectly but traditionally we’ve struggled to supply components into it because of the specific requirements for low cost, fast turnaround, durable, blue, food contact components. But now we can.”

Addition Design is set to officially launch the groundbreaking process later this month at the PPMA Show in Birmingham – the largest processing and packaging machinery exhibition in the UK. Tom said: “We’re excited to be taking AddParts to this year’s PPMA event. From our initial conversations with industry, the response has been really encouraging. It’s a conundrum the 3D printing sector has been trying to solve for a long time, and we can’t wait to showcase our unique solution in the coming weeks.”

AddParts, which is delivered exclusively by Addition Design, supplies digital spares for automated production lines on demand through the use of 3D scanning, digital data management and industrial 3D printing.

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