Europe’s first 3D printing-focused, high-tech business incubator, 3D Factory Incubator, is part of a growing AM hub in Barcelona and promotes the adoption of 3D printing by creating a space to incubate related startups, SMEs, and micro-enterprises. Led and promoted by the ACCIÓ-accredited technological center Leitat and public self-funded company El Consorci de Zona Franca de Barcelona (CZFB), 3D Factory Incubator was inaugurated in early 2019, and offers marketing services, co-working spaces, and access to a 3D printing lab.
Within just 100 days of opening, the unique initiative reported 20 incubated companies, which kept it on track to its goal of hosting the 100 best 3D printing-based business ideas in five years. Now, after just two years of operation, 3D Factory Incubator announced that it has exceeded original expectations and already reached 55 incubated projects.
Since March of 2019, 3D Factory Incubator, which is also supported by FEDER Funds through the Incyde Foundation of the Chambers of Commerce of Spain, has received over 300 applications from various entrepreneurs and startups to develop their AM business ideas, and more than 50 jobs have been created as a result. 79% of the companies hosted at its facilities are from Spain, while 21% are international, and all from many different sectors:
- 19 in the consumer goods industry
- 12 in technology consulting
- 7 in healthcare technology
- 7 in mobility
- 7 in ICT
- 1 in robotics
- 1 in logistics
- 1 in chemicals
It’s been a little over a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a PHEIC, or public health emergency of international concern, and I’m sure I speak for many people when I say it honestly feels like so much longer now. The novel coronavirus has upended the entire world, but in the midst of it all, the 3D printing industry stepped up to help out. Thanks to the technology’s design freedom, customization opportunities, and ability to print complex products in a single piece, 3D printing can help streamline manufacturing processes. Because of this, 3D Factory Incubator reports that it was not adversely affected during the pandemic, and due to more demand for space and additional scanning, printing, and post-processing equipment from its incubating companies, it even expanded its facilities from 600 to 1,000 square meters.
In March of 2020, 3D Factory Incubator partnered with a consortium of other Spanish companies, including Leitat, HP, CZFB, and Consorci Sanitari de Terrassa (CST), to develop the Leitat 1, the first medically validated emergency respirator with 3D printed components. Additionally, the incubator helped produce the Multivent bifurcator, which can increase access to assisted ventilation equipment—definitely helpful when ICU equipment is running low.
“In a year marked by uncertainty at a global level, the 3D Factory Incubator has been an example of the type of activity that will lead the new economy,” Pere Navarro, special delegate of the State at the Consorci de la Zona Franca de Barcelona, said in a press release. “From the CZFB we are committed to promoting the development of Industry 4.0, based on sustainability and the creation of partnerships, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Objectives.”
Over its two short years of existence, the 3D Factory Incubator has become “a reference center for Industry 4.0,” and, as such, has received visits from roughly 850 different companies, including HP, Materialise, Forbes, Samsung, Henkel, BCN3D, and Escribà, Additionally, even during the pandemic, many important national authorities, such as President of the Spanish Government Pedro Sánchez, Minister of Innovation and Science Pedro Duque, and even King Felipe VI, have come to see the incubator for themselves.
“Throughout these two years we have witnessed the enormous talent that is emerging around a new industry that is betting on 3D printing, not only as a prototyping tool, but also as the basis for its business project. Additive manufacturing technologies offer multiple advantages and opportunities to turn a priori impossible ideas into successful projects with rapid development: from electric saxophones to insoles 100% adapted to diabetic patients, masks for people with sleep apnea or the latest trend in electric mobility,” said Joan Parra, the CEO and Executive Vice President of Leitat. “We have seen how collaborative synergies have arisen among the incubatees themselves thanks to being part of this innovation ecosystem and we are excited to know that this is only the first step and that very soon these synergies will be able to reach a new level with the opening of the Center of Excellence 4.0, DFactory BCN.”
I haven’t yet heard when the new Center of Excellence will be opening, but rest assured, once we know, we’ll let you know.
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