Days after the Additive Manufacturing European Conference (AMEC) wrapped up, organizer CECIMO, the European Machine Tool Industry Association, has reported the resounding success of the event.
Hosted on June 21, AMEC brought together Members of European Parliament (MEPs) from across the political spectrum to discuss and learn about how additive manufacturing technologies are important to and could transform Europe’s industrial economy. Broadly speaking, the adoption and advancement of 3D printing in Europe does not seem to be a partisan issue.
At the event, CECIMO emphasized the importance of AM to high-level EU decision-makers. Its main goals were to gather investment pledges and bigger R&D incentives, promote stronger standardization efforts and to reinforce caution in implementing legislation on additive manufacturing—in other words avoiding over-regulation.
“Europe firmly remains a leading source of technology development in the field of Additive Manufacturing today, particularly in segments like metals. However, we need to do more to expand the installed base of AM systems across European countries. There are several examples of SMEs integrating additive technologies in their processes – and they are key in showing that AM is ready for mass production. But for them, accessing equipment is challenging.” Filip Geerts, CECIMO Director General, said to 3dpbm.
To elaborate on these points, CECIMO brought a number of top industrialists to the stage and invited members of the additive manufacturing industry to partake in the event. These voices gave insight into the vast potential of additive manufacturing in Europe and highlighted its broad applications across the aerospace, medical, automotive and hydraulics industries, to name just a few.
“We have successful examples of policies that foster a demand for Industry 4.0 solutions such as AM – Mr. Geerts continued. It is absolutely crucial for the EU to demonstrate the importance of fiscal incentives to modernize the machine park of European producers, and that it supports their deployment on a comprehensive scale. It is also equally important to keep supportive EU legislation, as is the case today, and focus on any missing elements. We need industry-wide standards rather than new regulations. They will accelerate the uptake of AM across European factories”.
Enabling innovation through standardization and cautious regulation
Of course, the event was not only held to promote AM to European decision-makers: strategies for furthering its adoption and acceleration across the continent were also a topic of discussion. A key point in this was pushing to avoid over-regulating the technology so early in its development.
We need to do more to expand the installed base of AM systems across European countries.Filip Geerts, CECIMO Director General
“It’s important to apply caution in introducing legislation in a growing sector like additive manufacturing,” said Stewart Lane, General Manager of Renishaw’s UK Sales Division and Chair of CECIMO’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group, at AMEC’s opening. “We need to keep supportive framework conditions.”
Slovakian MEP Ivan Stefanec, from the European People’s Party, reiterated this same notion. “We need to avoid hindering innovation,” he said before turning to the importance of R&D investments. “Estimates say 3D printing may have an impact of up to $550 billion a year by 2025. I do believe it is very important the EU supports industry’s research activities.” Stefanec also touched on the vitality of supporting SMEs in the adoption of AM.
Speaking of standardization, Czech MEP Dita Charanzová from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) underlined the EU’s role in establishing standardization for additive manufacturing, first within Europe and potentially on an international scale. Creating solid Europe-wide standards she said, could help European industry in “moving towards new additive production methods.”
Charanzová also addressed one of the main challenges in promoting and implementing additive manufacturing across European factories: the lack of relevant skills. “We will need to start wholly new educational programmes to create the relevant workforce,” she said.
In sum, it seems everyone present at AMEC this year was on board with bolstering additive manufacturing in Europe. Now that key points in realizing this have been highlighted, it will be interesting to see what the decision-makers put forward.