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Europe: Additive Manufacturing

Why 3D Printing still has Room for Improvement

| Editor: Rosemarie Stahl

Key application areas of 3D printing like manufacturing moulds and implants as well as machine parts are not exploited to their full extent, especially in small and medium-sized companies.
Key application areas of 3D printing like manufacturing moulds and implants as well as machine parts are not exploited to their full extent, especially in small and medium-sized companies. (Bild: Pixabay)

According to a report on 3D printing European small and medium-sized enterprises face barriers to take up additive manufacturing technologies. While some European regions are world leaders in areas like selective laser melting, additive manufacturing is in most application areas still at an early stage.

While 3D printing is praised as being the future of manufacturing and the path to producing personalized products in small quantities, a new report on the subject shows, that there is still room to grow for companies in Europe. The report on 3D printing aims to detect missing capabilities in European regions in link with current and upcoming 3D-printing applications. It also targets to promote a better cooperation between EU regions. The report on 3D printing was published by Idea Consult in consortium with Cecimo, VTT (the European Association of the Machine Tool Industry), the Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, and AIT (the Austrian Institute of Technology).

The input provided by Cecimo about the machine tool industry is of great importance, since the cross-regional demonstration and collaborative projects that were identified along and across value chains will feed into the Commission's actions to support the work of the Smart Specialisation Platform on Industrial Modernisation.

3D Printing technology applied mainly in large companies

According to the report small and medium-sized enterprises face barriers to take up additive manufacturing technologies because of their limited resources. The developments in additive manufacturing remain steered by large companies and Research and Technology Organisations. The value chains of the technology‘s key application areas (machine and airline parts, manufacturing moulds, implants and surgical planning tools, printed food, textiles, etc.) are not disrupted yet: additive manufacturing is still at an early stage in most application areas. Barriers to additive manufacturing deployment often relate to the lack of skills, training and knowledge to standardize additive manufacturing materials and processes.

European regions are world leaders in areas like metal additive manufacturing, selective laser melting or biomedical additive manufacturing research. Furthermore the report showed that the need of R&D support at the level of technology is crucial.

Some cross-regional and cross-value chain collaboration opportunities, relating to the imbalance between Western and Eastern European regions, the need for critical mass and knowledge flows, as well as the need for connecting additive manufacturing supply and demand. Other policy implications were put forward, including fostering the development of adapted curricula, awareness raising, certification efforts (e.g. for materials) and R&D support.

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