Aerospace industry wins £154m for research into 3D printing

The UK aerospace industry will be given £154m of public funds for new technologies such as 3D printing of aircraft parts, the government will announce on Thursday.

Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, will outline plans to invest in four research projects. The aim is to help Britain's aerospace industry maintain its position as the world's second largest, by developing the next generation of lighter, greener planes.

Almost a third of the money will go towards research led by UK engineering group GKN on the use of 3D printing to make lightweight metallic parts for aircraft.

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is being used by an increasing number of the world's biggest industrial groups to produce more lightweight, complex and cost-effective parts. US-based General Electric and Airbus have already started to make much more use of the process.

In January, the government announced it was creating a national centre for 3D printing to support the aerospace, automotive and medical industries. It is due to open in 2015.

About £42m will also be provided for Airbus-led research on designing, manufacturing and assembling wings, while £20m will be invested in jet engines, an important industry for the UK because of Rolls-Royce.

The government is also providing £13m for research by Thales, a defence contractor, to look into improving WiFi and phone access in the air.

The funding is part of government strategy to support aerospace: along with industry, it will invest £2bn in research on the next generation of passenger jets over the next seven years.

The UK's Aerospace Technology Institute will largely focus on Britain's strengths in engines and wings, and could safeguard about 100,000 British jobs.

Britain has the second largest aerospace industry by revenue after the US, but is facing competition from countries such as China and Russia.

At the Farnborough air show on Thursday, Mr Clegg will also announce a £50m funding pot for small to medium sized businesses in the aerospace supply chain.

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