Voices of the stakeholders

Interview with Prof. Flavio Tonelli
WP2 Leader of AMiCE Project

Prof. Flavio Tonelli

Why manufacturing companies should move towards additive manufacturing?

Today many changes are occurring in manufacturing and these can’t be addressed with old responses. I think Additive Manufacturing can be considered one of the most effective complementary technologies with the potential to give proper industry-side responses to flexible and customized markets, also fulfilling a long-term sustainable perspective. Moreover SMEs performing highly innovative product design could effectively benefit from new geometries and manufacturing technologies. 

Why manufacturing companies should move towards circular economy?

As I stated for additive manufacturing, there is a diffuse interest for companies to shift from linear to circular systems. However, circular economies implementation should not only see as a necessary effort towards environmental sustainability, but as a real need of companies to compete in the global markets and therefore to achieve a competitive advantage for the future. The scarcity of natural resources and some rare elements will drive this transition faster than the current expectation. Companies investing, now, in decreasing material intensity of their production processes will gain a stable competitive advantage with respect to competitors. The important investments required to perform this transition can be afforded by adopting shared infrastructures such as the ones provided by AMiCE project; that is allowing also SMEs to explore the opportunities of Additive Manufacturing and Circular Economy in their business models. 

What is the advantage to combine additive manufacturing and circular economy?

It can be said that Additive Manufacturing is a kind of production that can enable a circular and resource efficient industrial system. If you consider the production phase as the conversion of materials and energy in goods, the efficiency of this transformation is a crucial step for the generation of environmental impacts and wastes. The possibility to save material in realizing ‘net shape’ products as well as producing powders from recycled materials is the real novelty of this technologies combination. Clearly it is complex to take into considerations the different variables and factors affecting final quality of products; a new mindset in designing, realizing, testing and certifying these products has to be conceived and the exploited working on Technology Readiness and Manufacturing Readiness Levels. A proper use of Pilot Lines or Demonstrators is crucial to demonstrate this potential to SMEs. 

Do you think that AMiCE project is correctly addressing this latter aspect?

I’d say yes. Looks at the Regional Good Practices and Pilot / Demonstrator Projects for Advanced Manufacturing , where Pilot lines definition does not only include the hardware innovations, but also organizational development and activities needed to prepare for the market. In short, the value of a pilot line is to demonstrate technology and offer innovation services, so that a practical instance of a pilot line can be considered a demonstrator. The pilot line can be typically operated by one or multiple industries (also partners) including SMEs and research organizations. At industrial level, this concept is mainly used for the technical equipment used during the scale-up activities. Also it is especially used for discrete products, like chips and electronic components. With regard to industrial biotech and advanced materials (closer to the AMiCE application domain), the term “pilot plants” or “demonstrators” is used instead of pilot lines. Because of these differences in terminology and given that the ‘Valley of Death’ is not only about physical equipment, the term “pilot production” is seen as more adequate.

The cost of pilot lines/plants are high and often external investment is needed. There is relatively limited capital available and private investors, especially at SMEs level, are reluctant to invest due to economic risk especially when applied to innovative technologies. That’s a reinforcing reason to stimulate coordinated actions such as the one planned in AMiCE project in order to better utilize existing relevant infrastructures to this end.