AMEC: Industry pleads for an ambitious European industrial strategy

CECIMO, the European Association of the Machine Tool industries recently organized the Additive Manufacturing European Conference (AMEC) at the European Parliament in Brussels, where high level representatives from industry, academia, EU institutions, think tanks and standardisation organisations discussed how to achieve the full-scale industrialisation of additive manufacturing (AM) in a rapid and cost-effective manner whilst generating the highest value for society.

Jean Camille Uring, President of CECIMO: “Additive manufacturing can satisfy Europe’s appetite for innovation and can boost the added value of industrial production. AM is still a relatively young technology which needs to be further developed so that its full potential can be unleashed. Europe has to move fast amidst global competition to turn AM into a mainstream technology that serves multiple sectors.”

The conference was hosted by Reinhard Bütikofer, Member of the European Parliament, who explains that an ambitious EU industrial policy is needed because it taps into new technologies and industrial trends to promote competitiveness and sustainability. He emphasises that, to enable the market uptake of AM, this policy should address research and development needs and promote SME finance, awareness raising, standardisation and skills.

At the conference, strong emphasis was put on the impact of AM on the society. Along with applications in automotive and energy, AM has early applications in the aerospace and medical sectors. Lightweight construction of air vehicles allows saving thousands of tons of emissions every year. AM energises efficient production of customized prosthetics and implants, providing a better quality of life to hundreds of thousands of people at reduced costs.

Director General of CECIMO is Filip Geerts, who states that as AM is moving fast as a mainstream technology, adequate government policy plays a vital role in technology development and market uptake. He also thinks that Europe has the potential of becoming the global centre of excellence in AM.

Clara de la Torre, Director for Key Enabling Technologies, at DG Research of the European Commission comments on the outcome of the event: “Only in the 7th Framework Programme (2007-2013), €160 million in EU funding was granted to more than sixty successful projects on additive manufacturing technologies. In the first year of the Horizon 2020 Programme, in 2014, nine AM projects and actions were selected to benefit from more than €17 million in EU funding.” De la Torre highlights that AM benefits from funding both as a ‘key enabling technology’ and as a solution provider to ‘societal challenges’.

Industrial and research stakeholders underlined that the continuation of EU funding is essential to overcome AM’s current technical limitations and also to bring the technology closer to series production to unlock its full economic potential.

A call has been raised to the EU to adopt a ‘European strategy for Additive Manufacturing’ which bridges complementary capabilities and resources across Member States and such a strategy should look beyond research funding in order to accelerate the market uptake of AM, including standardisation, finance, awareness raising, skills, IPR, liability as well qualification and certification procedures. Standards will be instrumental to build market confidence in this new technology. As education appears to be the key enabler of AM, it is essential to place AM in education curricula, and to give students and the industrial workforce access to hands-on training. Designers and engineers set the transformative power of AM free across sectors, be it machine tools, aerospace or automotive.

Mr Geerts concludes: “Europe does not have the luxury to lag behind competitors in disruptive technologies which transform the economy. It has to aim at global leadership. We hope that the new EU Industrial Policy Roadmap and the Digital Single Market Strategy will give the necessary attention to AM”. He also invites all the stakeholders to contact CECIMO to participate in the association’s AM-related activities.