Enable Manufacturing awarded funding to develop zero-emission tailpipe technology for automotive sector

UK-based metal 3D printing service Enable Manufacturing has received part of a combined £1.48 million investment from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to develop the “next big thing” in zero-emission tailpipe technology for the automotive industry.

The firm was awarded the funds as part of the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s (APC) Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP) to use its Additive Casting technology to produce lighter and more cost-competitive metal parts for cars, buses and heavy-duty vehicles as the UK looks to achieve a net-zero emissions future. 

“We are delighted to be working with Enable Manufacturing as part of our Technology Developer Accelerator Programme,” said Josh Denne, Head of SME Programmes at the APC. “The past 12 months have been difficult for the automotive sector, with Covid-19 and shortages of some key materials, it’s been challenging for all parts of the supply chain, not least those small to medium enterprises trying to turn their green automotive innovation into a commercially viable product.”

A part made by Enable using the Additive Casting process. Photo via Enable Manufacturing.
A part made by Enable using the Additive Casting process. Photo via Enable Manufacturing.

Enable’s Additive Casting process

Conceived in 2019, Enable’s Additive Casting technology combines 3D printing and traditional casting techniques to manufacture complex metal parts of various sizes more cost-effectively. 

3D printing molds allows the firm to offer the material choices of traditional casting without the limitation and high costs of tooling. The technology is able to produce parts in over 130 different metals, supposedly at a lower cost than both direct metal 3D printing and conventional manufacturing techniques.

The company offers Investment Additive Casting for parts with fine detail up to 250 x 250 x 250 mm, and Sand Additive Casting for large parts up to 60 tonnes. In May, the company unveiled its latest process, Vacuum Additive Casting, which uses a vacuum casting technique to draw metal materials into fine structures to produce highly complex and small parts with thinner walls. These parts are suited to rapid prototyping applications or part volumes up to 100,000 per year, costing a fraction of the price of producing these parts via methods such as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). 

Metal casted part using 3D printed mold. Photo via Enable Manufacturing.
Metal casted part using 3D printed mold. Photo via Enable Manufacturing.

The Technology Developer Accelerator Programme

Since its foundation in 2013, APC has funded 150 low-carbon projects to develop technologies that are projected to save over 260 million tonnes of CO2.

Enable Manufacturing is one of 11 companies awarded funding through the TDAP to help drive the UK towards achieving net-zero emissions. Each firm will be given up to £135,000 to help advance their concept and bring it closer to being used within the automotive industry.

Enable’s Additive Casting technology is particularly suited to applications in the automotive sector as it offers engineers greater design freedom to produce lighter, and more cost-efficient metal components. The technology produces parts that are optimized and, importantly, more lightweight, a property that is particularly sought after in the automotive sector for cost-saving and performance-enhancing benefits.

Additive Casting will also help to eliminate the need for costly and inflexible tooling for automotive applications, and encourage manufacturers to re-shore their production to the UK, leading to further reductions in CO2 emissions. Adopting the technology will allow these businesses to innovate quicker and reduce their physical inventories by adopting a digital supply chain approach to producing metal components. 

“The technology developed by companies like Enable Manufacturing could play a crucial role in the automotive industry’s net-zero carbon future,” Denne said. “We are excited to support them on their journey of ensuring their innovative technology becomes commercially viable.”

The funding awarded to Enable will not only aid the company in further developing its Additive Casting process for the production of zero-emission tailpipe technology for vehicles, but will also help to commercialize the technology for use within the automotive sector.

“The winners of this competition demonstrated that their technology enables the shift towards net-zero emissions vehicles, but our aim is to provide successful applicants with a systematic, phased approach to building their businesses – a 360-degree program of support to help great ideas flourish in a commercial space,” Denne added.

According to Enable Manufacturing’s Sales Director, Phil Kilburn, being part of the program is a significant opportunity for the company, and will be crucial to Additive Casting’s further development within the automotive sector. 

“We are delighted that the Advanced Propulsion Centre has made this grant available to support the further development of our Additive Casting process,” he said. “Having support from the APC is a great testament to the potential of Additive Casting and will help us and our customers to reduce weight, add performance and reduce costs for many critical drivetrain components.”

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Featured image shows a part made by Enable using the Additive Casting process. Photo via Enable Manufacturing.