Event works to ensure Europe's leading role in additive manufacturing for the future

The Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing European Conference focused on creating a European strategy for additive manufacturing.

EU institutions, think tanks, and other stakeholders of the machine tools sector were present at the Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing European Conference 2016 (held May 25, 2016, at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium), where they discussed the creation of a European strategy for additive manufacturing to support the steady, long-lasting, and consistent development of this technology in Europe.

Members of the European Parliament from four political groups confirmed that additive manufacturing represents an important opportunity for the growth of manufacturing in Europe, and political support should be consistently provided both at the European and national level.

Representatives from the European Commission, Peter Dröll and Ronan Burgess, underlined the continued need for a unified approach at the European level to consistently develop advanced technologies like additive manufacturing, and as such support the growth of the European industry. They also highlighted the importance of fostering digital industrial innovation in Europe.

Industry speakers commented that additive manufacturing offers transformative potentials and freedom from some production restrictions. It represents a "disruptive technology" that can have a positive impact on materials and energy saving, in addition to reducing supply chain cost and enhancing education and skills.

During the debate session, panelists discussed different topics to be included in a European additive manufacturing strategy: from research to education, from IPR protection to SME development, and from standardization to certification.

It becomes obvious that the current lack of coordination and multiannual planned intervention is diluting public and private investments, jeopardizing a pan-European additive manufacturing-related exchange of knowledge and exposing European additive manufacturing and end users to international competitors.

New technologies like additive manufacturing contribute to the competitiveness of manufacturing and must have the potential to increase sustainability both by reducing energy and materials consumption and increasing workers' health and safety. In addition to the competitiveness and sustainability components, an overall strategy specific for additive manufacturing should also include supporting access to finance, research and innovations, standardization, and certification. To achieve these goals, dialogue between industrial stakeholders is fundamental.

The European strategy for additive manufacturing should go beyond research funding to accelerate its market uptake, including the development of standards, access to finance--especially for subject matter experts (SMEs), awareness raising, skills development, IPR protection, and liability regulations, as well as qualification and certification procedures. Specifically, SMEs should have the opportunity to access a database of AM/3DP service providers at European level, which could also prove useful to promote those services that companies are developing in the additive manufacturing field. The adoption of standards will be especially important to build market confidence and to support the sustainable development of additive manufacturing technologies. Education and skills appear also to be fundamental to additive manufacturing market uptake.

Materials, their availability and development, should also be included in the strategy because of their important role in technological development. In that area, the strategy should focus on clear and specific regulations on the certification of materials.

The panellists also debated on the ICT challenges faced by the European manufacturing sector. Advanced technologies allow the development of different and innovative supply chains, based on the moving of files and not only of materials, goods, and people. Therefore, a strong ICT network is required in each of the 28 European Member States to allow the consistent development of additive manufacturing technologies.

"CECIMO [the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries] recognizes that in Europe, both national governments and the European Commission have been supporting additive manufacturing development, R&I investments, and related private-public partnerships through direct projects and funding of R&I centers," states Filip Geerts, CECIMO Director General. "As a result, thanks also to innovative and courageous entrepreneurs, Europe takes the lead in the production of metal additive manufacturing systems globally, capitalizing on its legacy in industrial production technologies. However, there are challenges and obstacles on the way to its industrialization that should be cleared and to that end, government policy must play a role in technology development and market uptake. With its know-how, skilled workforce, and resources, Europe has the potential of ensuring a global center of excellence in additive manufacturing.”

CECIMO will continue to provide European decision-makers with the necessary input to design a European strategy for additive manufacturing. All stakeholders are invited to contact CECIMO to participate in the association's additive manufacturing-related activities.

For more information, please visit www.cecimo.eu.

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