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29 July 2014

3D print firm and North West University work together as part of innovative NHS project

"3D printing allows a radically different approach to manufacturing as can be seen from the healthy order flow being generated from their existing customer base."

FDM Digital

County Cllr Niki Penney (middle), Chair of Lancashire County Council's Economic Development Department with Graeme Bond and James Saunders from FDM Digital Solutions.

Burnley-based, FDM Digital Solutions is pioneering the use of 3D printing to produce made-to-measure insoles for the NHS. Together with partners at the University of Salford and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust the team is developing its supply chain with the support of funding from The North West Fund. 

Having already won grants totalling almost £1 million from the Technology Strategy Board and EPSRC, the company also secured a £688,000 investment from The North West Fund for Venture Capital and £172,000 from Lancashire's Rosebud Finance.

This latest funding will enable the company to invest in its innovative 3D technology, to allow it to fulfil future orders and expand its team in Lancashire. A key part of this plan is now in place following the recent delivery of a 3D printer with a one metre print capability.

Using the system being developed by FDM Digital, hospitals will be able to scan a patient's foot shape and email it to the company, where the team will then print and deliver insoles to the exact specification within as little as 48 hours. The process will replace the traditional hand-made techniques and could revolutionise the way the NHS buys orthotics and other
products.

Using 3D printing - or additive manufacturing as it is also known - objects are created layer by layer to replicate an exact design. In addition to its work in the medical sector, FDM Digital manufactures components for the aerospace, engineering, automotive and motor sports industries.

The company was established in 2011 by James Saunders, who has a background in operations management within the advanced materials sector, and Graeme Bond, who has over 10 years' experience of 3D print techniques.

James Saunders, Managing Director of FDM Digital, said: "This new system could improve quality and reduce consultants' time. It's great that Rosebud and The North West Fund for Venture Capital have seen its potential and are backing our vision. 3D printing could transform supply chains in the NHS as well as other industries.

"Salford University operates one of the leading orthotics centres in the UK. Working with the team at the University has enabled us to develop our technology for the benefit of NHS consultants and patients across the country. Our manufacturing techniques allow consultants to quickly provide lightweight, washable, fully bespoke alternatives to traditional casts and accurately model bones for prototyping."  

Doug Stellman of Enterprise Ventures, which manages The North West Fund for Venture Capital said: "3D printing allows a radically different approach to manufacturing as can be seen from the healthy order flow being generated from their existing customer base. We look forward to working with the team at FDM Digital, and their partners within Salford University and the NHS as they continue to develop their technology and grow their business."

For more information about how you may be able to access funding for your new business please visit http://www.thenorthwestfund.co.uk/funds/venture-capital




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