And the results of its efforts are stunning.
The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (BIC) in Huddersfield is aiming to boost manufacturing in the region with a new 3D printer.
The revolutionary printer will enable high-tech tenants at the centre in Firth Street to make advances in product development.
It complements existing facilities and high performance computing systems available at the £12m centre for use by manufacturing and engineering firms.
And it has already received the royal seal of approval. The Duke of York was presented with a 3D version of his crest during his visit to Huddersfield University.
The centre is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the university and Kirklees Council.
3D printing – or additive manufacturing as it is known in the industry – enables users to create three dimensional solid objects, based on a virtual model, by adding layers of a plastic material, such as nylon, in different shapes.
Unlike simpler machines, the printer at the 3M BIC builds on a bed of plastic powder, which reduces the need for supports or additional parts and creates a final product to exact specification.
3D printing has already revolutionalised the healthcare sector by aiding in the development of items such as prosthetic limbs and false teeth.
3M BIC acts as a hub for dynamic businesses – providing firms from start-ups to small and medium-sized enterprises with links to Huddersfield University’s research centres, funding support, access to national and international markets and skills as well as access to state-of-the-art technology.
The centre’s Innovation Avenue – home to the 3D printer – also houses revolutionary technology ranging from an acoustic camera that uses sound vibrations to detect faults in equipment and x-ray fluorescence used to study pigments.
The Government recently announced that it is investing £14.7m to develop 3D printing projects, allowing businesses to use the technology to design new products across industries such as healthcare and energy.
Dr Michael Wilson, technology director at 3M BIC, said: “Start-up businesses and SMEs often don’t have the financial freedom to invest in technology such as 3D printers, and for many it is crucial in progressing to the next stage of their projects.
“We are opening doors for those smaller companies to have access to high tech equipment like the 3D printer to enable them to turn their digital blueprints into solid prototypes of their solutions.
“New technology is being developed all the time, so it’s vital that we keep on top of innovation at the centre.”
Tenants already benefiting from the 3D printer include engineering designer Gary Fenton, of Formative Designs, which creates 2D drawings and 3D models of products and components before transforming them into solid objects for clients.
He said: “A lot of my clients are from the medical device sector, so having access to technology and the market is ideal.