CECIMO, the trade organization representing European machine tool manufacturing interests, is taking steps to incorporate the nascent additive manufacturing (AM) industry into its policies and representation. The group convened a conference in Brussels last week, drawing industrial, academic, policy, and standards experts to examine how the region's AM production can be expanded (“full-scale industrialization”) speedily and cost-effectively, but also “generating the highest value for society.”
The latter point, while vague, is in keeping with CECIMO’s agenda in recent years, which has concentrated on ways to maintain the growth and development of manufacturing technologies in the European Union, in particular as EU industrial sectors have reduced the scope and scale of their capital investments.
CECIMO is the union of trade associations from 15 nations in the EU, and represents more than 1,500 companies. It claims its member associations represent 97% of machine tool production in EU, and more than 33% of the world’s machine tool production capacity.
“Additive manufacturing” describes the range of technologies involved in producing component parts directly from CAD models, using 3D printing or laser sintering, or similar concepts. These technologies are different from standard cutting or turning operations, which is the scope of most companies represented by CECIMO, and yet the industrial programs they seek to supply are largely the same ones addressed by buyers of machine tools and related technologies.
Industrial and research stakeholders attending the event argued for the EU to continue funding AM research, to overcome current technical limitations and to promote series production. And, all interests seem to agree on the need for the EU to adopt a “European Strategy for Additive Manufacturing” to coordinate “complementary capabilities and resources across member states.” There was general agreement that such a strategy should go beyond research funding to promote the wider industrial-scale AM activity, including standardization and financing, and other less concrete “social” concerns.
The latter includes a general need for quality and material standards, as well as efforts to direct the influence and growth of AM in the EU’s manufacturing supply chains.
According to CECIMO’s summary statement: “The conference confirmed that AM creates perspectives in terms of technology, markets and economic development, as well as sustainability.
Returning to the group’s more consistent message of promoting EU capital investment, Jean Camille Uring, CECIMO president said: “Additive manufacturing can satisfy Europe’s appetite for innovation and can boost the added value of industrial production. AM is still a relatively young technology which needs to be further developed so that its full potential can be unleashed. Europe has to move fast amidst global competition to turn AM into a mainstream technology that serves multiple sectors."
However, the political dimension of the discussion was quite evident. Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the European Parliament, stated: "Europe is in dire need of new economic dynamism. Additive manufacturing offers great potential for disruptive innovation. It can boost industrial competitiveness and, at the same time, deliver significant material and energy efficiency gains.
“We need an ambitious EU industrial policy that taps into new technologies and industrial trends to promote competitiveness and sustainability,” Bütikofer added.
He emphasized that any EU policy on AM should address R&D needs and promote financing options for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), standardization, and skills.