Additive Manufacturing Europe
Report from EC Workshop highlights potential and barriers for AM in Europe.
Back in June, the EU was approached by industry leaders to explore the potential for additive manufacturing technologies and motivate the EU to continue financial support for its research and development sector.
The EU recently published a report detailing the outcomes of the funding petition including workshop presentation by Econolyst Managing Director, Phil Reeves, on the wider legal and economic implications of additive manufacturing in Europe.
The report suggests there are a number of issues requiring attention to further the development of the technology in Europe. Given the solid Asian influence on additive manufacturing, the U.S. is endeavouring to position itself within the industry with strong investments leaving Europe with some serious competition from foreign players in purchasing technology from other corners of the globe. Yet there is an opportunity here for Europe to develop more than just the technology itself.
Reeves explained: “To avoid these pitfalls and to remain competitive against these countries, Europe will need to develop more than just the technology aspects such as software, hardware and materials.”
The report also covers the age-old Intellectual Property issue. Concerns for scanned components, patents, ownership and liability issues surrounding localised manufacturing raise questions about the protection of the consumer.
Similarly, the report asks just how green is additive manufacturing? One of the major attractions to this technology and one that heavily promoted by industry leaders, is that this technology is very eco friendly. In some respects it is; it is an additive technology which means only the exact amount of material is used for each components or product. But support structures and limited recycling rates mean this is not as black and white as suggested.
Reeves commented: “The idea that the technology is fully ‘green and clean’ particularly in the manufacturing stage is not right in all the cases.”
Compliance and legality is also an issue that Reeves believes needs addressing. Though vendors can control what comes out of their supply chain, they can’t control what the user does with their product. Competition from other vendors and a question of where liability lies, mean that a system of resolving where ownership and responsibility lies would need to be constructed.
Reeves adds: “CE marking and compliance is another aspect to be analysed, since it remains unclear how compliance can be placed on something that someone has made himself.”
Reeves is realistic about the possibilities and limitations of the technology. Components, particularly metal, often require post processing and treatment after printing. This is where simulation and integration becomes valuable by allowing users to see what is possible before going into production and understanding the processes that go alongside the initial additive step. Perhaps this is a window of opportunity for Europe to develop software that makes this a more reliable and transparent process.
The European Commission EC has supported additive manufacturing through funding in continuous funding rounds from 1984 until 2013 with over 60 successful projects funded from 2007 to 2013. This has resulted in significant growth for the technology from a total budget of €225 million. However, despite the substantial support from the EC, Europe could be overtaken by the U.S and Asian markets in just a few short years with funding in these markets set to surpass that of Europe. The full report is available here.
Next month Reeves will take to the stage at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas to talk about business drivers and benefits of consumer 3D printing and Industrial Additive Manufacturing to the consumer electronics sector at the 3D Printing Conference hosted by TCT Magazine + Personalize. The leading event, the gathering place for all who thrive on consumer technologies takes place on 6-9th January 2015 at the Sands Expo including over 50 exhibitors in the 3D Printing Marketplace presented by TCT.