The European Parliament, the second largest democratic electorate and largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world, met this week for the second Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing European Conference, where it highlighted the pressing need for a common European strategy to advance 3D printing research, materials, education, market value and overall technological development.
At the 2015 Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing European Conference, the need for a common, trans-national strategy became obvious. Now, at the 2016 Conference, high-level representatives from companies, institutions, and the machine tools sector gathered once again to put a plan into action. Advanced manufacturing technologies, which include additive manufacturing and 3D printing, are becoming globally recognized as a force to be reckoned with, presenting the potential to reduce supply chain cost, increase sustainability (by saving materials and energy waste), and fundamentally alter how we produce both commercial and industrial goods. Recognizing this, Europe has proven to be a leader in certain AM-related fields, including metal 3D printing, yet if it wants to remain competitive—particularly as regions such as the U.S., China, and Japan rapidly advance—it must establish a unified, comprehensive strategy to ensure “steady, long-lasting, and consistent development” of 3D printing technology within its borders. The European Conference 2016, held at the Parliament building in Brussels, was co-hosted by five Members of the European Parliament from four political groups. These include Dario Tamburrano (EFDD), David Borrelli (EFDD), Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens/EFA), Eva Kaili (S&D) and Andrey Novakov (EPP). Representing the 3D printing industry were speakers from key corporations, including Stratasys, Siemens, SLM Solutions, Ultimaker, Materialise, and 3D Italy. Together, the panelists and participants identified the most urgent requirements to strengthen the European position in the additive manufacturing sector, and thereby strengthen Europe's industrial competitiveness overall.
Firstly, it was established that the overall strategy should include supporting access to finance, research and innovations, and standardization and certification. Another point addressed was that of 3D printing materials. The panelists called for clear and specific regulations on the availability, development, and certification of such materials, which play an increasingly important role in additive manufacturing technological development.
Furthermore, the European Strategy for additive manufacturing must “go beyond funding to accelerate the market uptake” of 3D printing and related technologies, ensuring that SMEs in particular are able to benefit from education and skills development, IPR projection, liability regulations, and qualification and certification procedures.
All of these steps will help to ensure market confidence and support the sustainable development of additive manufacturing technologies. The Parliament went on to state that for these goals to be achieved, dialogue between industrial stakeholders’ is fundamental, and that political support should be consistently provided both at European and national levels.
CECIMO, the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries, was present at the Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing European Conference 2016. Filip Geerts, Director General, stated: “CECIMO recognizes that in Europe, both national governments and the European Commission have been supporting AM development, R&I investments and related private-public partnerships through direct projects and funding of R&I centres. As a result, thanks also to innovative and courageous entrepreneurs, Europe takes the lead in the production of metal AM systems globally, capitalizing on its legacy in industrial production technologies.”
“However,” he continued, “there are challenges and obstacles on the way to its industrialization that should be cleared and to that end, government policy must play a role in technology development and market uptake. With its know-how, skilled workforce and resources, Europe has the potential of ensuring a global center of excellence in AM.”
While all corners of the world react to the rise of 3D printing and attempt to secure both competitive and collaborative advancements, the European Parliament is making it clear that it will not be left behind.