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The Digital and Material Technologies Laboratory

Dr Simon Leigh has been shortlisted to take part in the 2016 Royal Society Pairing Scheme. Each year the scheme pairs 30 research scientists with UK parliamentarians and civil servants. They learn about each other's work by spending time together in Westminster and the researcher's institutions. Those taking part gain an insight into how research findings can help inform policy making, and come away with a better understanding of how they can get involved. The scheme has now moved into the Westminster partner recruitment phase. As part of the shortlisting, Dr Leigh has been invited to attend a reception taking place in parliament on the afternoon of Monday 28 November.

Royal Institution Summer School Workshops

Dr Simon Leigh and (in conjunction with Margaret Low, WMG) has been invited to run a workshop at the Royal Institution Summer School in London this summer.   Entitled 'Illuminating Engineering', the workshop takes place on 5 August. Details of last year's session are available.

The BINDT Aerospace and Composites Groups are holding an Aerospace Event in April 2015 at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), in Rotherham. Presentations on current topics relevant to the aerospace industry will prompt lively and productive discussions.

The Aerospace Event will have two main topics. The first day will concentrate on the benefits of NDT and, in particular, will consider the potential NDT opportunities in Additive Manufacturing. The second day will focus on NDT of aerospace composites, including advances in 3D characterisation and prediction of structural performance of as-manufactured components.

Dr Leigh will present some of the DMTL’s research on using Additive Manufacturing to facilitate NDT.

The DMTL is currently looking for a highly-motivated Research Fellow for a fixed term appointment. Further details can be found at

A new research paper from the DMTL has been published in the IOP journal, Smart Materials and Structures.

The article can be found at

Using a magnetite/thermoplastic composite in 3D printing of direct replacements for commercially available flow sensors

The paper abstract reads:

Flow sensing is an essential technique required for a wide range of application environments ranging from liquid dispensing to utility monitoring. A number of different methodologies and deployment strategies have been devised to cover the diverse range of potential application areas. The ability to easily create new bespoke sensors for new applications is therefore of natural interest. Fused deposition modelling is a 3D printing technology based upon the fabrication of 3D structures in a layer-by-layer fashion using extruded strands of molten thermoplastic. The technology was developed in the late 1980s but has only recently come to more wide-scale attention outside of specialist applications and rapid prototyping due to the advent of low-cost 3D printing platforms such as the RepRap. Due to the relatively low-cost of the printers and feedstock materials, these printers are ideal candidates for wide-scale installation as localized manufacturing platforms to quickly produce replacement parts when components fail. One of the current limitations with the technology is the availability of functional printing materials to facilitate production of complex functional 3D objects and devices beyond mere concept prototypes. This paper presents the formulation of a simple magnetite nanoparticle-loaded thermoplastic composite and its incorporation into a 3D printed flow-sensor in order to mimic the function of a commercially available flow-sensing device. Using the multi-material printing capability of the 3D printer allows a much smaller amount of functional material to be used in comparison to the commercial flow sensor by only placing the material where it is specifically required. Analysis of the printed sensor also revealed a much more linear response to increasing flow rate of water showing that 3D printed devices have the potential to at least perform as well as a conventionally produced sensor.

Figure 2

The DMTL at the University of Warwick is to join a consortium, led by GKN Aerospace, in a 3 ½ year, £13.4M research and development programme called Horizon (AM) that builds on GKN Aerospace's extensive and fast-developing additive manufacturing capability.

Backed by the UK's Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and funded jointly by industry and the UK Government's Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Horizon (AM) will take a number of promising additive manufacturing (AM) techniques from research and development through to viable production processes.

The consortium aims to establish processes able to create components that could be as much as 50% lighter than their conventional counterparts, with complex geometries that cannot be cost effectively manufactured today.

The programme will focus initially on using AM techniques to create near net shape parts which require very little machining. This will dramatically improve the 'buy to fly' ratio of the part by reducing the considerable cost in time and material wastage associated with the conventional machining of metal forgings. With material wastage as high as 90% for some parts, a significant reduction here will also provide major environmental benefits.

Rich Oldfield, Technical Director, GKN Aerospace explains: "AM incorporates a range of hugely promising manufacturing technologies that the UK aerospace sector must fully understand and exploit if it is to retain its position as the largest national aerospace industry outside the USA. This strong consortium has the expertise and understanding to continue the process of industrialising these technologies for use in both current programme updates and next-generation aircraft."

Commenting on the strength of the UK's Aerospace Industry Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said "it was "going from strength to strength and helping our economic recovery”.

"We are the number one aerospace industry in Europe and second only to the United States globally", said Mr Clegg. "I want to ensure the UK remains at the cutting edge of aerospace innovation, which is why I am pleased to announce that we are investing £154 million for research to explore new technologies like the 3D printing of plane parts and creating lighter, greener aircraft".

As with all technology, 3D printing is evolving at a rapid pace and organised crime groups are seeing the new technology as a potential way to 'print' and produce guns and weapons. With the world's first gun made with 3D printer technology successfully fired in the US in 2013, the DMTL at Warwick has been working with the UK based National Ballistics and Intelligence Service (NABIS) to make sure that the public and law enforcement understand the potential outcomes and implications.





As part of this work, we are working with NABIS to produce and test fire a number of 3D printed guns to understand the behaviour of these weapons at present and look at how they may evolve as a threat in the future. Our initial tests have shown that due to variability in the printers, control software and materials that the outcome of pulling the trigger on a 3D printed gun could range from it firing, not working at all, through to complete and catastrophic failure that would likely cause more injury to the user than the intended target. In fact, some of tests resulted in parts of gun becoming embedded in the ceiling of the police test facility showing that without specialist expertise and the right type of ammunition, anyone attempting to fire could probably maim or even kill themselves.

A news article about our work can be found at

Some of the work on this project has been funded by the Warwick Materials GRP

On the 26th of March 2014, Dr Leigh presented a talk on the use of functional materials in 3D printing to produce functional sensors and electronics. This conference offered a platform on the crossroads of Science, Design, Technology & Business in 3D printing electronics with speakers from Universities, research institutes and established companies as well as promising startups.

Update: Links to pictures and presentations can be found here


The DMTL recently welcomed Dr Christopher Hamlett from Nottingham Trent University for a short research visit.  Dr Hamlett’s research focusses on controlling the wetting of surfaces through biomimetic methods and the development of new foam systems using novel surfactants. The visit culminated in a well attended seminar where Dr Hamlett introduced some of the concepts behind surface wetting and the biomimetic methods that can be used to control such phenomena.

The visit was funded by the Warwick University Materials GRP. The Materials GRP at Warwick is an interdisciplinary program which spans the physical and engineering sciences. The Materials GRP joins up research from across the Warwick campus on materials of technological and societal importance: from understanding to application. 


A new paper entitled ‘A Microstereolithography Resin Based on Thiol-Ene Chemistry: Towards Biodegradable Extracellular Constructs for Tissue Engineering’ has been published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Biomaterials Science.

The paper can be viewed here