AM technologies have capacity to revolutionize manufacturing industry, and SLS technology represents one of manufacturing technologies where Europe has leading role for more than a decade. Such an assessment was reported by WTEC panel that included representatives of leading USA institutions for science and technology NSF, DARPA, CNR and NIST. In the final report of their strategic research project “Additive/Subtractive Manufacturing Research and Development in Europe” from December 2004, as the most important commercial vendors of SLS technologies are listed only 3D Systems (formerly DTM, United States) and EOS (Germany). Therefore, SLS technology represents and competitive advantage of European economy, and it should be given proper attention.
On the other hand, due to the possibilities that it opens for biomedical, biomimetic, energy efficient and other innovative hi-tech products, SLS technology represents also a key enabling technology as is proposed in drafts of the H2020 Work Programme for period 2016-2017.
AM technologies are especially suitable for small series and highly customized products, and represent important technological basis for innovative companies. Due to the described advantages of AM technologies, during the previous decade, innovative engineers all over the Europe established numerous innovative SME companies that were developing new products using AM technologies to manufacture prototypes. The SME companies thus became service providers for product development and prototyping in their respective regions, as it is the case with the three SMEs that participate in this project.
The accomplishment of the project will provide to mechanical designers of innovative companies a tool for using SLS technologies in the form of a public digital repository. In that sense, the project aims to unlock the potentials of AM and boost industrial deployment of the enabling technology, but through the applications of AM, it will boost engagement of SMEs.
The key to the project impact to European research and innovation potential are practical applications of its results, which will be immediately used in design of new products and tools by SLS. While the results will be available to the international public, due to the high costs of SLS manufacturing they will be predominantly used by industrial and mechanical designers of hi-tech companies in Europe, thus increasing European potential for sustainable competiveness, innovation and growth.