DMC: One year on

Kieron Salter, CEO of the DMC, reflects on starting a multi-technology additive manufacturing business in the middle of a global pandemic. A summary of the DMC's first year, its successes and what the future holds...

September 14, 2022
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General

We officially launched the DMCin July 2021 by throwing open our doors to some of the region’s leading MPs. It is hard to believe that this event was a little over a year ago! Those first twelve months passed in a blur. We’ve seen the business grow and develop, finding its place at the forefront of the UK’s rapidly growing additive manufacturing (AM) industry.

Before we reflect, I need to thank Nigel Robinson, COO, and the entire DMC team. None of this would have been possible without your continued hard work. Starting a new business, bringing together disparate technologies and partners, and creating a commercial advanced manufacturing facility (all during a global pandemic) was never going to be a simple task. We’ve moved mountains and it makes me all the more excited to see what we will achieve in the future.

Early struggles

We signed the lease, took the keys to the DMC building and began fit-out in 2020 – one of the most challenging periods in recent history. The combination of many geopolitical and virological factors proved to be somewhat disruptive, to say the least. Nevertheless, we managed to press ahead with the build in a safe and effective manner, thanks to the teams at the MEPC Limited and CS2 Chartered Surveyors.

Next came the challenges of getting equipment in place and operational during the same period. Lots of video calls and work behind the scenes were essential – albeit unconventional. At the same time, we needed to build a talented team for the future, so we leveraged talent from our sister company KW Special Projects and headhunted some exceptional talent from across the AM industry. We are now a team of 18 full-time staff and continue to grow, with placement students and work experience students a near-constant presence as we look to share and inspire.

Value of collaboration

From the very beginning it was clear that if we wanted to make the DMC an industry leader in commercial AM, we needed to forge the right partnerships with technology providers. To that end, we have been very fortunate in establishing a close relationship with the likes of Renishaw UK & Ireland, Stratasys, (through the Laser Lines team), DyeMansion, Spectroplast AG and our building automation provider Beckhoff Automation UK Ltd.

Within such a fast-moving industry, these partnerships have been key to keeping us at the forefront of technology. In fact, many of these partners are using the DMC as a reference site to showcase their latest innovations to the wider industry. In exchange, we have highlighted the rigours and challenges of a bustling commercial production environment. We owe a lot to their willing collaboration and persistence and look forward to growing these relationships further over the coming years.

Focus on education

We believe that the industry has a responsibility to inspire and encourage the engineers and STEM professionals of the future. To that end, we have made educational partnerships and activities a central aspect of our business. We set out to develop a multi-faceted approach to developing future talent, enabling young people from all sorts of backgrounds. The result? We have engaged with thousands of students over our first year, from career fairs to industry events to school visits. We have also provided numerous placement students and work experience students with a taste of state-of-the-art manufacturing and trained two apprentices of our own, alongside several graduate engineers.

At MACH 2022, we hosted the Inspiration Zone, showcasing the latest in AM tech with 6 MakerBot SKETCH systems and interacting with many school and university students. Following its overwhelming success at the show, we decided to permanently locate the Inspiration Zone at the DMC and run it as a full-time educational installation. Overall, we are very proud of what we have managed to achieve, considering our initial goal was to “inspire 100 students” in our first year.

Customers

You can’t have a business without customers. While we can’t speak publicly about many of the projects we are involved in, let’s just say the machines are running throughout the day and night! A huge thank you to our customers from across this first year, your trust in us has been hugely appreciated and we look forward to building upon these relationships in the coming years.

We have been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic companies that are really pushing the boundaries in their sectors, helping to leverage the advantages of AM thanks to our talented in-house engineering team. As we always say, the DMC is engineering-led and we are perfectly happy to design for application as well as manufacture, it is part of what makes us unique.

Looking to the future

Reflecting on the past is all about building a vision for the future. Despite the challenges of competing with traditional manufacturing methods and entrenched views, we have managed to make a success of our first year in operation. We have met our internal objectives and continue to work on some very exciting projects while building relationships with important industry partners like the Satellite Applications Catapult – a partnership that was just recently announced.

Now, looking to the future, what are our plans? The AM sector is growing and we have positioned ourselves well, working as a key enabler for many companies looking to exploit the advantages of metal and polymer AM. We will continue to work in this capacity, investing in our array of industry-leading equipment and talented team to deliver the best parts available. Our ambition is to be a global reference site of connected AM and we have made huge strides, but in the pursuit of continuous improvement, is there ever really an end?

Thank you!

A huge thank you to everyone involved in our first year. From our commercial and technology partners to the teams at SEMLEP and Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, the Silverstone Technology Cluster, MEPC Limited and Silverstone UTC. Thank you to our fantastic customers for bringing us exciting projects and programmes and, of course, our wonderful DMC team.

Here’s to another fantastic year of the DMC and the bright future beyond!

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