Jun 13, 2017 | By Tess

CECIMO, the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries, has published the “European Additive Manufacturing Strategy,” which specifies a number of areas that Europe should focus on in order to reap the benefits of 3D printing technology.

The 20-page document lays out a strategy that will help Europe move into the future while further integrating additive manufacturing. Among the focus areas that require improvement are skills and education, intellectual property rights, standardization, and financing.

“With the rise of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies on the shop floor, industry entered a new round of innovation," writes CECIMO Director General Filip Geerts in the document’s foreword. "If Europe aims to remain a leader on advanced manufacturing production, it will need to succeed in the global race to industrialise additive manufacturing.”

The first part of the “European Additive Manufacturing Strategy” addresses Education and Skills, an area that CECIMO says is lacking. That is, the report cites a notable shortage in emerging skills related to additive manufacturing, skills which are increasingly in demand across most manufacturing-based industries.

“Education systems across European countries have at times shown signs of obsolescence,” reads the document. “Educators find [it] difficult to catch up with the fast-paced developments of AM technologies. As a result, skills acquired by entrants to the AM labour market are at risk of misalignment with the current skills’ needs of companies. There is a need for a step change in approaching the preparation of curricula and setting out teaching strategies.”

Fortunately, the report also lays out a productive strategy which could be adopted to help curb the education problem. Taking a top-down approach, CECIMO encourages the involvement of 3D printing companies in curricula creation. This, it says, will make it easier for educators to keep up with the latest trends and developments in the AM industry. Another key strategy point involves increasing financing for schools and universities to give them more access to 3D printing systems.

The second part of the strategy deals with standards and certifications, both crucially important for the adoption and proliferation of additive manufacturing processes. The report claims that the current method of companies each setting their own standards for 3D printed components causes fragmentation, and that Europe would be better off with set standards and certification processes. “By supporting more coordination on standardization efforts, industry can spare time and financial resources for qualification in AM,” says CECIMO.

Next up is intellectual property rights and patents development, which are areas that CECIMO says should be placed high in decision-makers’ agendas. An obvious risk of 3D printing technology, intellectual property theft has left many companies concerned about the adoption of 3D printing. Improved enforcement of existing IPR regulations, as well as lower costs and faster processing times for patents could help to limit the risk of IP theft.

In regards to R&D, the strategy suggests establishing a “comprehensive research environment” for additive manufacturing. This will involve encouraging startups and SMEs to participate in R&D by “lowering the administrative burden and the lead time of granting proposals,” as well setting up an online portal for project proposals. “Ultimately, greater participation of SMEs in EU R&D activities would increase the application of AM systems by Europe’s end-user sectors,” reads the report.

You can read the report in full here.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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