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Additive Manufacturing | UK

DRAMA Project

Digital Reconfigurable Additive Manufacturing facilities for Aerospace, or DRAMA for short, is a three-year collaborative research project which started in November 2017. As the lengthy title suggests, DRAMA is about advancing additive manufacturing for use in the aerospace industry.

Additive manufacturing (AM) might not be seen as the cutting edge of technology anymore. In fact, you can find 3D printers in many homes now, used for hobbies and generally accessible to a wide range of people. It is a technology where innovation occurs on an almost daily basis though.

The DRAMA project is very much a proving ground to demonstrate how versatile AM can be. Atlas was involved to provide software that allowed for the creation of the world’s first digitally twinned AM facility enabled for flexible manufacturing.

Partners

  • Aerospace Technology Institute
  • Atlas
  • Autodesk
  • Granta
  • Innovate UK
  • Midlands Aerospace Alliance
  • Manufacturing Technology Centre
  • National Physical Laboratory
  • Renishaw
  • University of Birmingham

Timeframe

  • November 2017 to November 2020

Location

  • Manufacturing Technology Centre

 

AM has the potential to revolutionise manufacturing at large due to its innate flexibility and adaptability. Mass production and manufacturing has been stuck for most of its history by the fact that machines built to manufacture had to be purpose built to produce specific products. Advances have obviously been made that aim to make factories more multi-use and adaptable, but it wasn’t until the advent of AM that manufacturing became truly versatile.

Using 3D modelling and data from computer assisted design (CAD), machines “print” layers of material in precise, geometric designs. Layer upon layer is printed until a complete object is completely formed. Intricate and varied components can be created in a variety of materials, all by a single machine.

Atlas software is built from the ground up to encourage collaboration. By partnering with Atlas, the DRAMA project was able to develop the world’s first digitally twinned, reconfigurable AM facility which can be used by UK companies across the aerospace supply chain.

Creating a paperless shop floor

With Atlas software, the DRAMA project was able to realise fully digital management for flexible manufacturing. Within Atlas software, the DRAMA project were able to create custom dashboards which provided factory visualisations. These included equipment and environmental sensors feeding real-time data and setting alerts when values reported were outside the desired threshold. This gives engineers digital control over physical machinery, wherever they are in the world.

Adaptive task assignment

By assigning tasks to physical resources, Atlas was able to give human and machine input user roles. With technology able to carry out and complete tasks independent of people, the AM facility could be put to use by parties around the globe and throughout various points in the supply chain.

The outcome

The DRAMA project proved that with the right software, AM could be used to provide flexible solutions to manufacturing, by different groups within a single company or without. AM can be carried out from anywhere on the globe, with repeatable, adaptable and improvable processes.

Atlas provided an environment in which a low code/no code approach could be taken by different design teams with different knowledge bases, wherever they might be. Using cloud technology with airtight security, AM can be used to provide complex components without the upfront infrastructure costs of traditional manufacturing.

Realising the dream of creating the world’s first digitally twinned AM facility enabled for flexible manufacturing was the goal set by the project and it was met. Atlas was able to prove that with the right software, new technology can cut the cost of manufacturing by orders of magnitude.

Benefits
  • The world’s first digitally twinned AM facility enabled for flexible manufacturing
  • DRAMA won the award for Best Research Team of the year in 2019