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AMS Spring 2023

Finnish R&D Institute to Create Database of Metal 3D Printing Materials

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DIMECC Ltd. is a Finnish organization dedicated to R&D founded in 2008 and is owned by almost 70 academic and industrial entities. Think of it as a Finnish version of Fraunhofer, the renowned and gargantuan German research institute. The group has now launched a project to establish a “comprehensive and open” database of metals used in additive manufacturing (AM) for Finnish industry

Since 2016, DIMECC (“Digital, Internet, Materials & Engineering Co-Creation”) has had a particular interest in the digitalization of Finnish industry, along with the creation of new businesses focused on furthering that same purpose. Through its 3D printing contingent, Finnish Additive Manufacturing Ecosystem (FAME), the organization is pursuing further digitization, in a project dubbed the “Database for Radically Enhancing Additive Manufacturing and Standardization.” Or, to throw one more acronym at you: “DREAMS.”

DREAMS will accomplish this by printing 10,000 test rods composed of different metals and alloys, using different types of metal AM printers and production processes. Additionally, the project will also study “the utilization of 3D printing of metals in the most demanding applications.”

The project’s funding, totaling €6 million, came from Business Finland, a Finnish government investment agency, as well as the organizations involved. The latter include eight of the companies associated with FAME, as well as three Finnish universities. They hope to be done with the project by 2024. Concerning the role of the database in Finland’s economic trajectory over the next several years, director of FAME Markus Korpela said, “With the help of extensive implementations of DREAMS, we will raise Finnish know-how to international awareness. For Finland, the development of domestic 3D printing is important so that the industry can be more export-oriented in the future.”

Although it has a population of only about 5.5 million people, Finland is something of a tech hub. Investment in startups in the Scandinavian nation was at its highest levels ever in 2020 and 2021, with much of the capital coming from foreign investors. In turn, progress made by FAME could likely have global implications. Finland’s robotics industry slipped from top 10 in the world in the middle of the last decade to no longer in the top 20 by the end of the the 2010s. However, the significantly increased investments in the country’s tech sector the past couple years — which includes a project announced by Amazon in 2021, to develop autonomous delivery vehicles in Helsinki — suggest that Finland could once again become a global capital of automation.

The connection here is that the building of a database of materials is exactly the sort of thing required for optimizing automation in an AM-centered ecosystem. If DREAMS is a success, Finnish industry will be in good position to become a leader in the next generation of automated production of metal parts. Moreover, as I mentioned before, Finland’s research could also reverberate in the global metal AM market. Automating the production of metal parts would seem to be one of the linchpins for tempering the volatility of global supply chains, and a comprehensive materials database is a necessary prerequisite for making future strides in automation of that sector.

Images courtesy of FAME

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