European 3D Printing in the Spotlight at Fourth Annual AMEC Event

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CECIMO is the European organization that represents several different manufacturing sectors on the continent. Also known as the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries, the organization has taken a strong interest in additive manufacturing, and was recently responsible for organizing the Additive Manufacturing European Conference (AMEC), which took place on June 21st and was co-hosted by Members of European Parliament (MEPs) from some major political groups.

The conference highlighted the expanding range of applications for additive manufacturing in European industry, including aerospace, medicine, automotive and hydraulics. One major topic of discussion was how to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing in Europe, and solutions included the promotion of new investments, the development of standards and the avoidance of over-regulation. Bigger fiscal and R&D incentives were also named as a priority.

Several top industrialists attended the conference, along with the growing community of additive manufacturing professionals on the continent. The event was kicked off by Stewart Lane, the General Manager of the UK Sales Division at Renishaw and Chair of the CECIMO Additive Manufacturing Working Group. In his opening remarks, he encouraged policymakers to adopt a forward-looking attitude toward industry in Europe.

“It’s important to apply caution in introducing legislation in a growing sector like additive manufacturing,” he said. “We need to keep supportive framework conditions.”

MEP Ivan Stefanec (EPP) agreed that a cautious approach to regulation is necessary, and emphasized the importance of research.

“We need to avoid hindering innovation,” he said. “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.”

Despite the caution on regulation, the importance of standards was not ignored. MEP Dita Charanzová (ALDE) stated that solid European standards should be developed before seeking their international adoption. She also commented that Europe is suffering from a lack of relevant technological skills in the workforce – a common refrain across the world as 3D printing and other advanced technologies rapidly develop, leaving educators and professional development experts scrambling to keep up.

(L to R) Mady Delvaux-Stehres, MEP, Philippe Vannson, Head of Unit Photonics Unit at DG CONNECT of the European Commission, and Florian Feucht, Head of Additive Manufacturing Application and Sales at DMG MORI/Realizer [Image: CECIMO]

“We will need to start wholly new educational programmes to create the relevant workforce,” she said.

MEP Mady Delvaux-Stehres (S&D) talked about the existing IPR and liability framework on additive manufacturing in Europe, and noted that industrial and consumer spaces should be clearly differentiated. She assured that the Paliament is indeed taking a cautious approach towards regulation and product liability rules in the manufacturing industry.

“I believe the existing framework can fit for 3D printing,” she said.

While AMEC focused on Europe, parallels were also drawn between the continent’s industry and that of international competitors. When discussing 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies, common themes emerge, no matter the location: standardization is important without over-regulation, and education and training are vital to developing a workforce that can keep up with quickly advancing technology.

The conference was moderated by Frits Feenstra from TNO and Benjamin Denayer from Sirris.

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