Although you may know it more for beautiful landscapes, monuments, and the best culinary tradition in the world by a longshot, Italy is a key adopter of AM technologies and one of the top global markets for industrial automation. Its healthy design industry – with Milan as its capital – and high-end luxury products, from Ferrari and Lamborghini to yachts and high-end jewelry, make ideal candidates for the opportunities that additive manufacturing offers in terms of short batch production for limited editions, mass customization and high-performance products.

However, there is also another reason why Italy has been such an early adopter of additive manufacturing and today represent one of the top 5 global markets. If one of the promises of AM is distributed manufacturing, Italy has been a distributed manufacturing nation from it’s “industrial miracle” of the 1960s. The Italian industrial landscape is made of thousands of distributed SME’s. These companies specialize in short to medium production of high-quality goods. To many of them, 3D printers offer the solutions they have been looking for.

On the other hand, there are also many factors slowing down Italy’s adoption of AM. One is the very fact that Italian companies are generally small, family-owned businesses with a very localized view of the market and a chronic inability to scale up globally. Many times this is related to a generalized antipathy for making investments that are considered risky, for example in educating the workforce, adequately rewarding the best talents and in marketing their products to a global audience. This is not true for every company and the fashion, food and furniture design industries tell us that when Italian companies do take these steps, they can be some of most successful in the world.

Another factor limiting adoption is that Italian manufacturing is very much tied to traditional approaches. In many cases, the most high-quality materials cannot be processed by AM, or at least not to the highest standards. For this reason, Italian companies were the very first to implement 3D printing for rapid prototyping and even casting but may not be as rapid in adopting 3D printing for part production.

So what kind of AM companies are there in Italy? Some of the key AM adopters are active in the medical field (Lima Corporate invented 3D printed trabecular titanium implants), others are leading in aerospace (Avio Aero, now GE, built the world’s first fully integrated metal AM factory). There are a number of 3D printer manufacturers, led by Sisma and DWS (active in the dental and jewelry segments with stereolithography and metal PBF systems), and growing industrial filament extrusion system producers such as 3ntr and Roboze. Due to the Italian industry former leadership in the field of plastics, there are also a number of high-quality filament manufacturers. Then, of course, all major automotive companies (FCA, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati among others) are very important adopters of AM, primarily for prototyping. Meaning that there is also a healthy market for the distribution of high-end prototyping systems by EOS, Stratasys, 3D Systems and all the other AM industry leaders.

In this AM Focus, in collaboration with the team from our Italian sister website and our 3D Printing Business Directory team, we will look at some of the most interesting Italian companies leading the AM revolution in the most beautiful country in the world.

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