CIM 4.0, a Turin-based competence center, offers operational and strategic support to manufacturing companies oriented towards the digitalization of industrial processes using Industry 4.0. The center, supported by world-renowned aerospace, automotive and energy companies – FCA, Avio Aero (GE), Michelin, ENI, Thales Alenia and Leonardo, Italdesign just to name a few – was created to offer a reference point for everything related to technology transfer, the diffusion of skills and specializations linked to technologically advanced production cycles, and training for companies. The task of the competence center is to support, through the activation of pilot lines, the technological development of innovative processes and products, offering companies a structure capable of making the approach to new markets simpler and more competitive.
With a professional background that led him to the role of Director Global Advanced Technology Plan and Head of Vehicle Research & Innovation, EMEA at the FCA Group, Enrico Pisino is today the CEO of the Turin Competence Center. We met him — online — to learn about the creation, mission and future prospects of CIM 4.0.
3dpbm: Can you describe how CIM 4.0 was born and what it does?
Enrico Pisino: “Our competence center was born thanks to an initiative of the Polytechnic University of Turin and the University of Turin which, thanks to the coordination work of the Turin Industrial Union, brought about the active involvement of 23 leading companies in innovation 4.0. The center was built to cover the basic skills for enabling Industry 4.0 technologies, with a specialization in Additive Manufacturing and Digital Factory technologies. With regard to the first focus, we support companies in the field of metal AM. Within the Digital Factory, we deal with the optimization of production processes, from efficiency to predictive maintenance, as well as the application of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and IoT.”
What about specifically with regard to additive manufacturing?
EP: “We have made important investments by acquiring four machines: three powder bed fusion systems (from 150, 250 and 400 mm by Prima Industrie and EOS) and a large direct deposition system (1000 x 800 x 600 mm) to meet the needs of different sectors such as automotive, agriculture and aerospace. There are several companies working in the aerospace and oil & gas sectors that are interested in additive manufacturing for repairs and/or the production of large equipment and systems. This laboratory is a real pilot line, in which processes and objects are developed and where we have everything necessary to guarantee the quality and completion of the processes. We have already committed a significant investment worth a few million Euros, which should be finalized by June with the commissioning of the pilot line.”
How are your AM services structured and who are your typical customers?
EP: “As far as the additive services are concerned, I can say that they are versatile and complementary. We started by studying the potential of the technology and then focused on using our pilot line for very specialized and niche productions. Our consortium members, as well as external companies and SMEs, can come to us to use the systems or have them used on their own, as we also offer consultancy services. In fact, we have a profiled evaluation platform for the various alternatives to traditional manufacturing through which companies can evaluate the benefits of additive. Starting from the product portfolio and production lines, we provide companies with a guide to implementing additive manufacturing.”
Does this mean that you also help companies internalize AM capabilities?
EP: “We complete our services with a highly specialized training offer: we give access to training activities. In this time of COVID-19, our training offer has been totally switched to a webinar format. Training activities promoted by FCA for the automotive industry or Leonardo for the aerospace have been transformed into training courses or adjusted to the skills of CIM 4.0. This also includes the possibility of implementing training on the job to accelerate and optimize the training process.”
3dpbm: How many are you in terms of staff? And how are you organized?
EP: “We have 10 direct employees. Another 183 are consortium members, of which the majority are people with great experience in the field of Industry 4.0. In addition, 22 teachers are part of the team, 15 of whom work in our groups as consultants. These resources are divided into 4 working groups, each of which is coordinated by a PM of high potential that I have personally selected and hired. The first group follows the additive world, the second follows the digital factory world, the third the training and the fourth deals with cooperation and public tenders.”
3dpbm: How does the collaboration with partner companies work?
EP: More than partners, these companies are a consortium and therefore owners. Today, we are a consortium but we will soon become a limited liability consortium company (Scarl) that will include the participation of these large companies and universities, all with the same percentage. We will therefore be a majority shareholder. In two years, we will verify the interest of the companies and opportunities to expand participation to new members.”
3dpbm: Can the Piedmont region be considered to be an Italian hub for aerospace as well as automotive?
EP: “We could say that, but I would say that the whole national territory is active on aerospace and automotive. On the other hand, for technical expertise on metal additive manufacturing, I can say that Turin is also at the forefront thanks to a team of scientists that have been active for almost 30 years at the Polytechnic University of Turin. Of course, this will have to serve in a collaborative and certainly not competitive perspective, so we represent a national reference available to all companies and are ready to collaborate with other competence centers throughout Italy.”
3dpbm: What impact will the inevitable changes caused by COVID-19 have on the additive market?
EP: “In 2019, there were large investments made for AM implementation in the automotive sector, the same thing in aerospace and in the manufacturing industry. And we saw a very clear trend. Now with the emergency we are experiencing, it is natural to ask what will happen, and I want to start with all of our needs. There will be a natural reduction. For example, we’re likely to see fewer season tickets at the cinema because we will inevitably remain conditioned. A change in needs and priorities will translate into types of products that will decrease and others that will increase. For example, I think many of us will have a disinfectant robot in the house, and the same thing will happen in offices or hospitals. This example is just to say that business will be redefined for many industrial sectors, and additive manufacturing will certainly be part of it, because when there is a product and a related product line that needs to be rebuilt, attention will be paid to capital, and at the moment the only approach that offers the concrete possibility of rebuilding well with limited capital is additive manufacturing.”
3dpbm: How will this reflect in practical terms?
EP: “There will be a conversion of factories, new work organization models and an acceleration in the use of digital technologies, focusing on automated systems and tools, and more generally on robotics. We will start thinking about new businesses and related products and services with new technologies in mind: for example, additives will be an enabling technology because it does not require high investments and can be used without fear of abandoning old machinery. We will become a world more attentive to social issues, the environment, health and well-being, but will still be globalized. It would not be a winning thing to keep the boundaries of technology tight.”
3dpbm: Which will be the next important steps?
EP: “As far as CIM 4.0 is concerned, we will complete the pilot lines, we will allocate the funding for the second call that we have published, trying not to go beyond mid-June, so we can complete everything this year because we need companies to get back to work. We also want to really support businesses with our services because we are ready and prepared, despite the fact that COVID-19 has inevitably slowed us down. As I said before, we have a very valid training offer which has been adapted for this transition phase. Just a few days ago, we launched the first course on additive manufacturing through a webinar held by a professor at the Polytechnic University of Turin with my moderation. We had good participation: over 200 people from all of Italy connected, and above all there was a strong request to promote highly vertical training activities. We intend to respond to these needs by exempting a qualified and continuous training program.”
When should we expect to fully restart this race toward Industry 4.0?
EP: “We are working in an unusual context right now, comparable metaphorically to the safety car strategy used in Formula 1, where everyone is forced to slow down dramatically and distances are reduced. For some, a safety car can represent a real opportunity to relaunch. In this case, however, there is no certainty of the duration of the “slow pace,” so it is necessary to prepare to resist, without excluding that the race rules and the prospects for victory could also change. It remains important to redefine strategies and prepare. We at CIM 4.0 are living this moment with the same goal: to help companies redefine strategies and support them so that they can react quickly. From experience, I can say that our country can still make a difference in terms of characteristics and skills. Exactly as in Formula 1, we hope our Ferrari F1 team will be able to do in the short term.”
*The original version of this interview appeared on 3dpbm’s Italian AM Industry portal Replicatore.it.