Innovation for Digital Fabrication
**Digital Fabrication can be defined as a new kind of industry that uses computer-controlled tools and processes to transform digital designs and materials directly into useful products.**
DIGINOVA will establish the current status across material domains and application domains in Europe in order to identify the most promising technology and business propositions for Digital Fabrication. The project consortium, consisting of 4 large companies, 7 SMEs and 9 research institutes will identify and connect main stakeholders through establishment of innovation networks centred around concrete business cases to determine the added value and feasible routes to commercialization.
The DIGINOVA consortium has broad research and development experience covering a wide range of materials and applications. The consortium is well equipped to generate international interest and expanding participation in the opportunities it identifies and has a proven track record in drafting roadmaps, establishing networks, involving stakeholders and informing the public at large. The DIGINOVA project will last 24 months and requests EU contribution of € 1.265.785.
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Grant agreement ID: 290559
1 March 2012
28 February 2014
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OCE TECHNOLOGIES B.V.
Roadmap to a manufacturing revolution
Grant agreement ID: 290559
1 March 2012
28 February 2014
€ 1 676 173,50
€ 1 265 785
OCE TECHNOLOGIES B.V.
Final Report Summary - DIGINOVA (Innovation for Digital Fabrication)
As the world is becoming ever more digital, decentralised and connected, the transition from analogue to digital technologies has a profound impact on many industries, markets, consumers and value chains. Well known and clear examples of this transition can be found in the music industry, in photography, printing and communication.
In common with many other industries, the manufacturing industry will also make the transition to the digital realm, and when it does, manufacturing will change beyond recognition. Established (analogue) fabrication methods and technologies will be replaced by Digital Fabrication technologies and solutions. This is expected to lead to a revolution in the manufacturing industry that needs to be anticipated, understood and supported.
´We've had an industrial revolution.
We've had a digital revolution.
Now is the time for a digital industrial revolution.´
Although the potential of certain Digital Fabrication technologies (such as 3D printing/Additive Manufacturing, digital graphical printing and printed electronics) and associated applications is well recognized, so far there has been no coherent roadmap delineating how the benefits and the potential of the whole field and concept of Digital Fabrication should best be pursued. Diginova aims to fill this gap by providing the first roadmap for Digital Fabrication in Europe.
Digital Fabrication is defined as a new industry in which computer controlled tools and processes transform digital designs directly into physical products.
The key driving force and success factor appears to be the development of well matched combinations of advanced new material deposition processes and materials.
The overall objective of the Diginova project was to assess and promote the potential of Digital Fabrication for the future of manufacturing and materials research in Europe. We have mapped the most promising application and material innovation domains, identified business drivers, key technology challenges and new business opportunities. We have also identified, connected to and involved a wide range of stakeholders across the value chain to assure wide acknowledgement and support. This has resulted in a roadmap and the underlying vision on Digital Fabrication that are intended to provide guidance for innovation in Digital Fabrication technologies, materials and applications and to clarify how Digital Fabrication is envisioned to lead to a radical paradigm shift in manufacturing. The roadmap also indicates how and why this paradigm shift is expected to open up opportunities for significant growth for the manufacturing industry and related material developments in Europe.
Project Context and Objectives:
Over the past decades, the advance of mass manufacturing in Europe has diminished and new production philosophies and approaches have emerged. During the 20th century, productivity and efficiency were the main driving forces, and production was based on analogue technology. In the middle of the century, the first computers appeared and process control and software impacted the manufacturing industry. By the end of the 20th century, digital technologies became increasingly important. Computer controlled machining and robots became commonplace, leading to a reduced need for manual labour. The advent of a digital revolution became visible in the domains of engineering and manufacturing.
We are convinced that successful innovation in Digital Fabrication can only result from a parallel, coherent and integrated development of functional materials, substrates and material deposition processes. While this may seem logical, it is not current practice. In most cases manufacturing processes are considered a given, and materials are designed around them, or at best ‘tuned to fit’. It is very unfortunate to see that in this traditional approach, new and sometimes unique functional material properties are negatively affected or sometimes even lost.
We believe that Europe needs to rethink how it will stimulate cooperation in the development of new materials and new applications. The physical distances, i.e. lack of personal relationships and limited chances to share and create new concepts, hinder the further development of technology. In general, more active cooperation in Europe is needed. Today advances are occurring too often in isolated “silos” and in an almost disassociated way. Fundamental to many digital fabrication technologies that were assessed by Diginova, there is also a need to reconsider the design and production of many kinds of products. The future combination of printing new materials, substrate materials, electronics, and additive manufacturing technologies would contribute to the creation of many new products and could even repatriate some production activity from Asia.
Wide adoption of Digital Fabrication techniques can certainly have profound implications, of which some are characterised and envisioned below:
• Digital Fabrication can be decentralised and it can strengthen local economies. As Digital Fabrication technology and processes evolve, the cost of digitally manufactured products will decrease. For certain applications Digital Fabrication may even evolve to the point where it can directly compete on cost with mass production. In addition, Digital Fabrication offers huge advantages and opportunities compared to mass manufacturing in terms of flexibility, customisation, personalisation and on-demand fulfilment. When cost barriers are sufficiently lowered, it will no longer be necessary to rely on centralised large factories from which mass produced products are shipped around the world. Instead, products can be fabricated locally. Products could essentially travel most of their journey as digitally stored data. Design will be global; realisation will be local. This will greatly reduce or eliminate transportation costs and reduce carbon footprint. In shifting manufacturing (back) to local economies, Europe could lead the way in reclaiming its manufacturing heritage and recapture a share of the production volumes that have been lost to Asia in the past.
• Digital Fabrication is flexible. It allows for one machine or sequence of processes to fulfil many roles and reduces the use of space and resources. Industrial mass-production generally requires a different factory for every type of product, but flexible Digital Fabrication allows one set of tools and processes to be used to make many devices. Flexibility could ultimately make it worthwhile to invest in consumer fabrication tools; only industrialists invest in a tool that makes the same thing over and over again, but for certain applications a tool that can respond to one's personal needs could be a tool worth having even in your home.
• Digital Fabrication is customisable and interactive. The internet is revolutionizing media and information services because of the ease with which users can generate their own content. Traditional media (TV, newspapers, radio etc.) are generally one-way channels that make it easy to be a consumer of information and difficult to become a producer. But with blogs, out-of-the-box websites, wikis and so forth, anyone can now broadcast information. Even funding for realisation of new innovative ideas is now commonplace through crowd-funding initiatives (such as Kickstarter). Digital Fabrication represents the same revolution whereby user-generated content can be brought to the manufacture of physical goods. With Digital Fabrication, consumers can specify, customise, design or ultimately even process materials into their own phones, their own computers, their own MP3 players or lighting fixtures. They will express their creativity in their products, rather than having to buy mass-produced ones. In fact, this is already beginning to happen, with large electronics manufacturers offering customisation on their web-sites, for example. In the next decade the current value chain with middle-men could be replaced by a simpler and short value chain, and the range of products made with new material functionality and combinations of functions could be extended. Following this reasoning, the production chain is expected to evolve more and more from a ‘push’ to a ‘pull/on-demand’ model.
• Digital Fabrication will ultimately lower costs. Once local economies, communities or ultimately individuals have their own fabrication equipment for small runs, they can create a car, a mobile phone, agricultural equipment or whatever product at the cost of raw materials, limited transportation and local overhead. The standard industrial supply-chain inflates the price of manufactured goods. To buy a commercially mass manufactured computer, the price has to cover the costs of mining the material, shipping the material to, for example, China, running the machines, labour, marketing, more shipping, and mark-ups by several retailers. Digital Fabrication, by producing parts or products in one step on-demand, with no waste, directly from raw materials, empowers local manufacturing, and cuts out extra costs and reduces the cost to just energy plus information plus raw materials and maybe a limited number of very special parts. Ultimately energy could be for free from the sun and information (designs) could become free from the Internet, in which case the only remaining cost would be that of raw materials.
• Digital Fabrication contributes to a level playing field. Means for communication, housing, medical equipment, agricultural equipment, electronics - let's assume that it would be a good thing to provide people in all countries access to these things. How are we to do it? One could say there are two ways: One is to manufacture the goods in developed and wealthy places and ship them, and the other is to manufacture them on-demand, on-site where they are needed, when they are needed, and in exactly the right quantities. Of these two solutions, only the second one creates local economic stimulus, teaches technological skills and makes communities economically more self-sufficient.
• Digital Fabrication is evolving. The ultimate fruit of Digital Fabrication will be the Molecular Assembler that rearranges atoms and puts them in place at great speed to build almost anything, from nano-scale robots to ham sandwiches.
Vision for Digital Fabrication
Within the next 10-20 years, Digital Fabrication will increasingly transform the nature of global manufacturing, with an increasing influence on many aspects of our everyday lives. Manufacturing will evolve towards a global distribution of digital design and specification files that will form the basis of local production. The economical advantage of large scale production will decrease, which makes smaller series production increasingly competitive and customised products affordable to an increasing number of consumers. The combined characteristics and possibilities of Digital Fabrication will generate new business models and new markets for new types of products and services. Transformation to Digital Fabrication contributes to the decrease of resource consumption and resource-intensive production, targeting low-carbon and zero waste manufacturing. This paradigm shift in manufacturing opens up great opportunities for entirely new ways of production and material development in Europe.
The prime Diginova objectives were:
• Identify the most promising market opportunities for European Manufacturing and related materials industry in ten and twenty years, including where a shift to digital fabrication will add the most value.
• Identify the stakeholders, key players and opinion leaders in the defined key application fields of Digital Fabrication to understand their view of the market and related business models.
• Determine a methodology to identify and catalogue the Key Technology Challenges – both technological and business oriented- for the most promising market opportunites.
• Create awareness and interest for Digital fabrication and bring together partners from the value chain and other stakeholders to interact, receive input and create new networks.
• Deliver a roadmap for digital fabrication drafted by the project partners together with all identified key actors. This will provide a meaningful framework and guideline for innovation for all actors in the innovation value chain.
Digital Fabrication will have an increasing impact on everyday life. The enabling of mass customization would allow customers to order fully bespoke products. Within the Diginova consortium we have made a shortlist of the nine most promising opportunities or applications for Digital Fabrication in terms of impact on manufacturing and life as a whole. These nine applications were identified through assessments and discussion within the consortium in conjunction with broad stakeholder involvement.
Most promising applications for Digital Fabrication
1. Digital graphical printing
2. Digital Textiles
3. Functional end-use parts and products
4. AM objects with embedded printed intelligence
5. OLED lighting and displays
6. Smart windows
7. Printed sensors
8. Personalized diagnostic and drug delivery
9. Medical microfactories
Digital Graphical Printing
The conversion from analogue to digital printing technologies is fuelling growth of the digital printing industry. Digital printing enables on-demand production, zero waste, no need for stocks, high flexibility, fast-turnaround, small series, personalisation, mass customisation and very short distribution and supply chains. As one of the biggest industry sectors in the world, printing clearly offers a great opportunity, with inkjet emerging as the most promising digital printing technology. If we assume the analogue to digital conversion rate is about 50 % over the next 10 to 20 years, this results in a market potential of over $250 billon (€185 billon).
Digital textiles consist basically of two slightly different applications: digital direct-to-fabric printing and digitally fabricated garments. Digital textile printing technology supports versatility, quick delivery, short printing runs, cost effectiveness and especially the fast fashion market. Next to adding decoration to textiles, an emerging field is to add other functions, like anti-bacterial and flame retardancy properties to textiles (smart textiles). Although digital printing still only constitutes 2 % of the total market for printed textiles, it is assumed to be growing fast, at a compound annual growth rate of roughly 30 %.
Functional end-use parts and products
The manufacturing of functional end-use products and parts constitute the core purpose of all manufacturing activity. The increased utilization of Digital Fabrication technologies has been driven mainly by the ability to efficiently manufacture a) geometrically complex components and products, which exhibit comparatively higher levels of performance or b) low quantities of products, down to a single unit. The current size of the European 3D Digital Fabrication industry (2012) can be approximated at $423 million (€309 million). We assume that the potential for revenue growth is very significant and will continue in the foreseeable future.
Additively manufactured objects with embedded printed intelligence
Innovative future products will integrate ‘ready‐assembled’ multifunctional devices and structures. Integration of such functional structures will allow the incorporation of, for example, sensors, control logic, in‐part health monitoring, electronic interfaces, and internal energy distribution or communication devices. This will result in a new generation of extremely capable and high value products for many different applications. As an emerging application area, the impact of such products is difficult to forecast. It is clear however, that these products embody the combination of several disciplines of science. Such combinations tend to lead to innovations that change the everyday lives of consumers.
OLED lighting and displays
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) technology can be applied to non-flat and bendable surfaces as an efficient, bright, lightweight and thin light source. OLEDs are used in lighting and display applications, such as smart phone screens, television screens and lighting panels. Several advantages, like lightweight, potentially flexible structures and wider viewing angles, are driving this technology forward. Currently, controlled thermal evaporation and spin coating are typically used for OLED processing. If OLEDs were digitally fabricated with, for example inkjet technology, the two most important issues for OLED production technology, i.e. price and scalability, could be overcome, while at the same time greatly enhancing freedom of design.
Smart Windows can change light transmittance by applying an electrical current in response to an environmental signal such as sunlight or temperature sensed by a light/temperature sensor. When activated, the glass changes from transparent to translucent or tinted, blocking some or all wavelengths of light. They can help to save energy in highly glazed buildings by reducing cooling or heating loads and the demand for electric lighting. The use of Digital Fabrication for glass construction potentially allows smart windows to be produced at low-cost with small runs of customized products. Different materials can be applied using the same types of equipment, and digital fabrication technologies can be envisioned opening up new design concepts to be readily produced for different applications in marketing, advertising and graphic design.
Sensors are needed in various applications; to control industrial processes, monitor climate and environmental conditions or simplify the procedures of everyday life, to mention just a few. The specific input could be light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure, amongst other phenomena. The sensor output is generally a signal that is converted to human-readable information. Printing enables manufacturing of cost effective large area sensor arrays on flexible substrates for various applications. However, fully printed sensors are not yet readily available on the market. Digital Fabrication is going to provide the capabilities required to produce printed sensors tailored to the specific application needs of the final consumer.
Personalised Diagnostics & Drug Delivery
Personalised Medicine refers to the tailoring of medical treatment and delivery of health care to the individual characteristics of each patient, aiming to accelerate diagnostics, increase effectiveness and efficiency of prescribed medications, and reduce the incidence of side effects. Digital Fabrication technologies, like inkjet printing, will allow the automation of diagnostics and support new opportunities to print highly complex multi polymorphism assays (such as ‘organs on a chip’), containing patient tissues with a range of markers for automated computational analysis and interpretation. Printing technology could be used to generate a drug with patient specific dose and release rates as well as custom printed biosensor arrays. Personalised medicine is in its infancy, and we estimate that the timescale for delivering huge value using this new technology will be over 20 years.
The concept of a microfactory is usually linked to the miniaturisation of machining and assembly elements to allow for desktop-based fabrication of small devices. Thus, medical microfactories can be understood as a standalone, dedicated manufacturing solution for a specific medical problem or condition. Medical microfactories can be desktop size fabrication points of custom made medical devices such as dental aligners, prosthetic sockets, lower and upper limb orthotics or surgical instruments as well as stations supplying on-demand biocompatible skin sections that match the patient’s specific requirements. The key reason for the adoption of additive manufacturing within medical microfactories is the ability to make personalised geometries based on digital scanning. In addition, for a range of applications it is attractive to make highly porous structures with a range of micro and macro porosities. The emergence of fully functioning medical microfactories is at least a decade away from widespread adoption, but offers a big opportunity in future.
The specification of an effective technology research agenda requires a thorough understanding of the motivators for the use of such technologies. In the Diginova project such aspects have been analysed in the form of “business drivers”. A business driver can be understood as a descriptive rationale supporting the vision of a manufacturing future based on Digital Fabrication. Ideally, the identification of business drivers is backed up by empirical observations and expert accounts.
The Diginova project provided a unique opportunity to engage with a large group of over 120 technology users and domain experts to survey their views on the driving forces behind the spread of Digital Fabrication technology.
The next paragraph presents the main drivers seen to motivate the adoption of Digital Fabrication technology in a generalised way. The information collected by the Diginova project suggests that some business drivers act as common motivators for the adoption of all technology variants of Digital Fabrication. Other business drivers have been identified to promote the diffusion of more distinct variants of the technology, such as ink jetting or Additive Manufacturing.
Business drivers for all Digital Fabrication technologies
• Increasing design freedom, including feature size
• Independence of economies of scale
• Product customisation/ customer input/ personalisation
• Reduction in lead times
• Supply chain consolidation and decentralisation
• Reduced raw material waste
• Reduction of hazardous waste
Business drivers for digital printing technologies
• Improved deposition accuracy
• Greater material range
• Ink/ toner substitutability
• Substrate substitutability
Business drivers for Additive Manufacturing technologies
• Part light weighting
• Geometry/ topography/ thermal optimisation
• Build material substitutability
• Reduction in unit costs
• Reduction of process energy consumption
• Additional functionality/ multifunctionality/ material gradients
The data collected throughout the Diginova project suggest that there are three highly prominent motivators for the adoption of Digital Fabrication: the design freedom inherent to the approach, the capability of creating customised products and an independence of economies of scale. All three aspects stem from the toolless nature of Digital Fabrication, meaning that tooling is not employed and tooling expenses are not incurred. These drivers are widely believed to lead to innovative products which can be customised or differentiated and which can be manufactured efficiently in small production runs.
Reduction of lead times forms a further highly relevant business driver. The collected data suggest that it is a relevant factor in practically all applications based on Additive Manufacturing. In contrast, in applications based on ink jetting technology, the reduction of lead times appears to be a pronounced driver in graphical printing and industrial printing applications. It has been suggested that this is due to the fact that the implementation of Additive Manufacturing in industry is still in an early phase of technology diffusion and is facing incumbent conventional manufacturing technologies exhibiting longer lead times.
Beyond the technical aspects of the core processes, several aspects relating to supply chain innovation have been identified as driving forces behind Digital Fabrication. Particularly in the area of printed products with paper and paper-like substrates as well as in the area of 3D fabricated consumer, defence and electronics applications, supply chain consolidation and decentralisation are identified as highly relevant business drivers. Implementing Digital Fabrication in industries driven by these factors will open up new supply chain possibilities and distribution models for a variety of products.
Such changes in supply chains are also seen as opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing. Effectively, the creation of a distributed manufacturing structure based on Digital Fabrication may limit the need to transport intermediate and finished products over large distances. Further environmental benefits may be realised through the characteristics of the processes themselves. As Digital Fabrication technologies are capable of building up components by incrementally adding material, significant waste streams associated with some subtractive conventional manufacturing processes, such as machining, can be avoided. Especially where energy intensive raw materials are used, such as titanium, the elimination of raw material waste has been shown to lead to substantial energy savings.
A further environmental aspect to consider in the performance of digitally fabricated products is the impact of such products during their useful life. As such products are likely to be differentiated for particular applications and exhibit high degrees of fitness for purpose, they are also likely to have a smaller environmental footprint during their use-phase. These benefits can be achieved by harnessing Digital Fabrication’s ability to create highly complex products for the manufacture of extremely efficient products, for example by light weighting methods in the aerospace industry.
A survey of key technology challenges for major opportunities
After looking at the general technology challenges associated with the materials and processes fundamental to Digital Fabrication, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the impact of these technology barriers on individual applications. It is thereby possible to obtain a more detailed picture of the avenues towards the desired economic and social benefits resulting from the diffusion of Digital Fabrication.
By analysing the most promising applications together with their identified key technology challenges, it is possible to pinpoint individual concrete recommendations. Such application focussed recommendations should be very helpful in the formulation of a future Digital Fabrication research agenda.
Digital graphical printing
The use of Digital Fabrication in graphical print applications places a great emphasis on throughput, product quality, ink compatibility, and deposition accuracy. The following list contains the key technology challenges pertaining to this major opportunity, both in terms of materials as well as processes. In the view of Diginova, it is critical that these challenges are addressed in future research.
• Development of low cost materials and inks to become more competitive with traditional printing techniques.
• Development of colour pigments or dyes for use in inks that exhibit excellent light fastness.
• Reducing the size of colour pigment particles. Development of colour pigment particles in inks with a size in the range of 10 to 50 nm holds significant promise.
• Development of new inks with excellent performance in eco-aspects.
• Finding alternatives for solvent based inks and UV curable inks (to improve the sustainability and safety of inks). Promising inroads could be made with water based latex inks or water based UV curable inks.
• Cost: Formation of ultra-thin layers, matching the layer thickness of ink in offset printing (<1 micrometre).
• Speed: Development of inkjet printheads that enable higher speed through higher jetting frequencies and/or by using printhead arrays comprising of a higher number of nozzles. MEMS is a key enabling technology for new generations of printheads.
• Print quality: High speed in-line image quality inspection systems for closed-loop measurement & control.
• Compatibility of inks with very wide range of substrates.
• Stable jetting of ultra-small droplets (1 pl) at very high frequencies.
• Methods for high speed fixation and drying of inks.
Technology challenges for digital textiles are to an extent similar to the ones that were identified for digital graphical printing, including lowering of ink costs, improvement of colour properties, matching of inks to a wide range of ‘receiving media’ (in this case textiles), eco-aspects and achievement of highly reliable printing processes combining high speed, quality and reliability. For the realisation of digital textiles with added smart functionally the following challenges should be addressed by a programme of research:
• Viability of embedding suitable electronic components. Collaborative efforts need to be set up with the electronics industry. Develop embedded functional but at the same time flexible and inconspicuous electronic components.
• Continuous development and improvement of functional inks.
For functional textiles in clothing the following challenges have been identified as pertinent:
• As clothing is worn by humans all materials must be completely safe.
• Achieve haptic and visual properties comparable to traditional garments or at least acceptable.
• Garments must be sufficiently UV insensitive and wear resistant.
• An essential criterion for the materials is that they must be cheap enough to enable an attractive value proposition.
For fully 3D printed textiles/garments, the following challenge is seen as critical:
• Processes to completely (3D) print textile garments and the associated required materials need further research and development to ensure that fully printed garments are robust, flexible and capable of producing properties that are comparable to traditional garments.
Functional end-use parts and products
The truly routine application of Digital Fabrication in manufacturing applications is facing major challenges at the current state of technology. These range from process fundamentals, process economics, industrial implementation, consistent quality and control as well as product data handling and specialized training. These aspects are especially relevant as the technology will need to outperform established conventional manufacturing processes in many cases.
The following specific challenges towards the mainstream implementation of Digital Fabrication for the manufacture of functional end-use products should be addressed by a programme of research:
• Increased deposition speed and system productivity.
• Improved core components of Digital Fabrication system, including new approaches to scanning or sources of energy and the transition from point processing to line-processing to plane-processing to volume-processing.
• Reductions in manufacturing cost.
• Improvements in productivity, repeatability and reliability.
• Reduction of process-borne waste streams on some platforms.
• Lacking suitability of existing design tools and product data handling.
• Establishment of a framework of standards and regulation, including product liability.
• Lacking education and training opportunities.
• Development of novel materials, matching or exceeding the properties of materials used in conventional processes.
AM objects with embedded printed intelligence
The multi-layer, multi-material deposition of functionally integrated devices is a challenging opportunity for Digital Fabrication. This is due to the fact that digitally fabricated embedded functional structures are mostly manufactured in hybrid manner, combining various additive and conventional technologies. Modular production configurations featuring elements of Digital Fabrication and conventional processes have been introduced to meet this challenge.
The Diginova project has identified the following list of main challenges towards the realisation of novel products with embedded printed intelligence:
• Combination of multiple materials into a single integrated product.
• Improvement in the reliability of printhead architectures and operation systems.
• Systems for the control and avoidance of deposition errors, including error prevention prediction, detection and correction.
• Requirement for specialized design software for multi-material and integrated 3D products.
• The currently available palette of build materials for functionalised embedded structures is severely lacking. Required material types include: dielectrics, conductors, optical carriers, and structural materials with tuned mechanical, thermal and physical properties.
• Ensuring materials compatibility and matching process and materials requirements, including parameters such as temperature resistance, viscosity, curing/solidification methods and deposition accuracy.
OLED lighting and displays
In order to allow Digital Fabrication of OLED lighting and displays, the most promising process is inkjet printing. For the transparent conductive layer, Digital Fabrication through inkjet printing seems feasible. However, the entire OLED device also requires ceramic and metallic materials to shield the organic material from the environment and to interconnect all the parts of the device. Although it is possible to produce the organic materials by an inkjet printing process, challenges still remain in the field of barrier and electrode fabrication, thereby disabling entirely digitally fabricated OLED devices for the moment.
To realise the Digital Fabrication of OLED lighting and display products, the following technology challenges should be addressed with a programme of research:
• Development of viable solutions for encapsulation of the active organic materials to ensure a long lifetime. This is of particular importance for OLEDs on flexible substrates since for rigid substrates glass encapsulation can be used.
• Reduced production costs.
• Enable flexibility in form/shape.
• OLED devices should be produced in a fast and continuous (in-line) process. Some of the technologies that might be used as an alternative for current vacuum evaporation technology include rotary screen-printing, slot-die coating and inkjet printing.
• Future developments must be focused on production of new formulations/inks to print both organic and encapsulation layers with low production costs and commercial viability. Transparent conductive oxides must also be applied using new deposition technologies to enable reduction of processing costs.
The impact of Digital Fabrication on the set of materials used for smart windows will initially be low, as Digital Fabrication is particularly useful in patterning materials that are continuously being developed for products produced with analogue technology. The main impact is expected to arise when demand for customized patterned windows or mirror elements arises. It is expected that the main driver for these innovations may initially come from the automotive and aerospace industries. Currently, these types of Smart Windows are either colourless when transparent or dark blue when opaque. This opens new opportunities for research into material that could switch between colourless transparency and a range of opaque colours.
The following key technologies must be resolved to realise the Digital Fabrication of smart window products. These challenges should be addressed in a programme of research
• Develop hybrid manufacturing solutions where Digital Fabrication technologies are used for patterning of materials that are applied with analogue technologies.
• Developing 2D Digital Fabrication systems that will allow for the development of specific designs and specific functionalities integrated into an individual window panel in short production runs.
• Develop cost-effective digital material deposition technologies that can process the required range of materials for smart windows in small production runs.
• Currently, the known types of Smart Windows are colourless when transparent and switch to dark blue when opaque. Develop materials and solutions to enable switching between transparent and a range of opaque colours.
The printing methods that are so far most commonly used for printed sensors are screen printing, gravure printing and inkjet printing. Inkjet has received a lot of attention because of its ability to create very small features and deposit multiple materials in a contactless and very flexible way. This makes inkjet the prime technology candidate for Digital Fabrication of sensors.
Technology challenges that need to be addressed by research in this field are:
• Integration of different components and materials with completely different properties in one sensor system, ensuring compatibility.
• Establishing suitable and reliable interfaces to printed electronics circuitry.
• Continuous development and improvement of new functional inks.
• Optimization of existing digital printing technology towards maximization of output and lowering of costs.
• Value chains for printed sensors need to be established and developed such that materials can be adapted to process technologies and vice-versa. New materials, manufactured by new kinds of processing methods, should at least have similar properties as the materials they are replacing.
Personalised diagnostics and drug delivery
Personalised diagnostics and drug delivery systems are at the forefront of modern medicine. The use of fundamental printing techniques such as ink jetting will allow the creation of systems to diagnose, monitor and prescribe at point of care and, as such, will have a significant positive effect on patient safety, drug efficiency and overall quality of care. The market for personal diagnostics is currently small in relation to the overall pharmaceutical market, and the lack of technological infrastructure is a significant barrier to growth.
Specific challenges that must be addressed by future research include the following:
• In materials processing: very short lead times, automated processing of proteins and resorbable polymers, with controlled doses of specific pharmaceutical products.
• In machine development: diagnostic printer platforms, able to produce diagnostic devices for a range of conditions from the same basic unit.
• In the clinical sciences: identification and development of biomarkers for drug compatibility and disease identification, greater understanding of the relationship between drug dosage and personal genetic predisposition, and the development of biosensor bioreceptors.
• Close collaboration between the clinical sciences, biomaterial scientists and machine developers should be established because this is key to bringing the promise of printable personalised medicine to the clinic and market.
The key reason for the adoption of Digital Fabrication within medical microfactories is the ability to make personalised geometries based on digital scanning. In addition, for a range of applications it is attractive to make highly porous structures with a range of micro and macro porosities. The emergence of fully functioning medical microfactories is at least a decade away from widespread adoption, but offers a big opportunity in future.
Specific technology challenges pertaining to this application are:
• For medical device microfactories very short lead time automated processing of biocompatible polymers and composites, going beyond what is currently possible, is required, with 3D printing at the centre of a single stage additive manufacture or hybrid manufacturing process.
• For tissue engineering microfactories clean co-processing of resorbable biomaterials with cells and proteins, to create complex 3D structures is required. Materials with a combination of excellent mechanical properties and excellent biological properties are a key need.
• Integration: the development of medical microfactories for specific healthcare applications (for example for arthritis, diabetes, cancer, assistive devices for the ageing population, or for orthotics and prosthetics) with the active involvement of healthcare professionals provides the best environment for integrating the technologies into a healthcare setting.
A firm grasp of technological challenges relating to processes and materials is vital for the formulation of a research agenda towards Digital Fabrication. Often though, significant challenges exist outside of the technical domain. These obstacles may slow or even halt the diffusion of Digital Fabrication technology if left unchecked. This section considers non-application-specific barriers which are not directly related to materials or processes and makes recommendations for research to tackle these.
Artistic and engineering design
Digital Fabrication enables new, unique capabilities that the present conventional manufacturing processes cannot offer. These will enable manufacturing business models focussing on customisation, functional integration and embedding, and make possible dramatic improvements in product performance, manufacturing cost and process energy consumption.
The promising applications discussed in this roadmap demonstrate that the innovative products enabled by Digital Fabrication will be unlike existing products. Besides the manufacturing systems themselves, an evolution of complementary design tools must take place to release the benefits residing within Digital Fabrication. Engineering design and analysis capabilities are central to product development, and with Digital Fabrication's great versatility in respect to product variation, complexity, and decentralised production, product development may in many cases become a widely distributed process involving many different special competences. This requires the development of specialised design software and modelling tools for multi-material and integrated products not only for the purpose of specialists but also for non-experts.
Contemporary design methods and designers have a working method that is based on the traditional paradigm of design for manufacturing (DfM), which amounts to a set of normative rules describing how conventional assembly, machining, injection moulding, etc. should be carried out. As Digital Fabrication technologies are much less restrictive than such conventional techniques, design systems explicitly or implicitly based on these rules are no longer useful. Further layers of complexity are added by process capabilities that are completely novel to manufacturing practice, such as the simultaneous deposition of multiple materials, possibly incorporating graded functionality.
To ensure that the design systems do not impinge on value creation through manufacturing systems, novel design frameworks are essential. Taking a user-centric and perhaps optimistic position, the Diginova consortium suggests using performance and functionality over the entire product life cycle as a guiding principle. Thus, this roadmap is able to state a revised design paradigm of Design for Digital Fabrication (DfDF), which may serve as a starting point for research into novel design systems. The design philosophy complementary to Digital Fabrication can be defined as “the synthesis of shape, size, geometric mesostructure, material composition and microstructure to best utilise manufacturing process capabilities to achieve the desired performance and other lifecycle objectives in a product."
The following concrete challenges have been identified over the course of the Diginova project:
• Implementation design tools suitable for the generation and handling of complex geometries such as latticework and honeycombs, and computational optimisation of topology and geometry.
• Provision of design systems capable of representing multiple-materials for embedded functional structures, moving away from a shape-focused approach to an approach with an emphasis on local properties.
• Linkage between design systems and process constraints of the various Digital Fabrication technology variants, but also with conventional manufacturing technologies for combined digital fabrication/ conventional manufacturing.
• Development of design tools that are sophisticated enough to allow participation of non-specialist users in the design process. This will allow the end-users of the products to join in on the design process and enable business models focused on customisation or co-creation.
Intellectual property issues and legislation
Currently available technology makes it difficult to control and limit the sharing of intellectual property. As is evident in the battles to control the sharing of literature, music and other media, even if the legislation on ownership of intellectual property is unambiguous, it is possible for individuals and organisations to access and share information, making the efficient enforcement of such laws difficult. Therefore, to alleviate the risk faced by profit seeking manufacturers and designers of losing control over their proprietary designs, these concerns must be addressed. An opportune way to do so would be to integrate the management of intellectual property within the design systems. This could be accomplished, for example, by developing a file format that limits the number of times the file could be copied, saved, or executed for fabrication without the loss of critical information, similar to how evaluation copies for some types of software are distributed today.
Balancing the benefits of access through the open-source model with other benefits available through the protection of certain intellectual property should demand the attention of policy makers and legislators, albeit in a manner which does not hinder the emergence or development of Digital Fabrication markets. Taking the business model underpinning the popular iTunes service as an example, it is reasonable to assume that it is possible for products or designs to migrate to an electronic format and to be reproduced as a copy of the original.
A further source of political concern is that Digital Fabrication technology may be used by consumers who may not automatically be held accountable for their products. A particular issue is that illegal or restricted items such as firearms could be manufactured. As stressed by the Diginova partners, however, at the current state of the technology it may be equally easy (if not easier) to manufacture such hazardous items using conventional methods. Therefore, the Diginova partners would argue that the lesson from history is that innovative distributed manufacturing activity does not automatically prompt significant regulatory concern.
In the long term, advanced Digital Fabrication will allow the consumer or non-expert user to produce complex products. It is the consensus among the Diginova partners that policymakers and regulators should maintain a watch on such developments and be ready to act where necessary. Defining who has legal responsibility for the quality and safety of digitally fabricated products will be a key step in developing a mass-market for Digital Fabrication. If a consumer were to procure a digitally fabricated product and it was later found to be faulty, who would be legally responsible? Such product failure may be due both to the original design and potential an errors made by the operator of Digital Fabrication technology. The problem could also be the result of an issue with raw materials, process parameters or the Digital Fabrication system itself, further complicating matters.
Such uncertainty may deter risk adverse end-users from accepting and purchasing products which are digitally fabricated as they will be unsure of what legal recourse they have in the event that a product is faulty. It is difficult to gauge what the appropriate legislative response should be at this stage. Moreover, it is perhaps also too early to define whether the designer, the equipment supplier or the digital fabricator should carry the ultimate responsibility. In Digital Fabrication, many business models and supply chain configurations are still embryonic, so it may be possible to assign responsibility to identified points in the supply chain. In consequence, the businesses upstream and downstream can adjust their activities accordingly. Most importantly, the policymaker should ensure that the safety of products is high enough to inspire consumer confidence.
The following recommendations for research are made by the Diginova consortium:
• Specify research requirements for a legal framework improving user confidence in the commercial implementation of the technology.
• Produce case studies related to current developments on an ongoing basis to monitor and develop suitable ways to control activities proactively, avoiding issues of future legal responsibility.
To evaluate the environmental performance, it will be necessary to take into account the entire life cycle of a product created with the process. There are several aspects throughout the life cycle of digitally fabricated products that will potentially lead to improvements in sustainability.
Due to the additive nature of the technology as well as the reduced waste streams, the adoption of Digital Fabrication technologies may lead to significantly decreased raw material requirements during the process stage. Also, the adoption of Digital Fabrication, which may be independent of established supply chains, may enable manufacturing operations located near the end-users of products. Therefore, it is expected that Digital Fabrication technologies will be able to reduce the environmental impact resulting from logistics and product distribution. The next, and perhaps most important, aspect to consider is the impact occurring during the product’s useful life. Generally the case can be made that a component’s fitness for purpose is a main determinant of its environmental efficiency. As discussed in the context of novel design systems, Digital Fabrication promises the realisation of new generations of products which are highly fit for purpose, in consequence this should lead to a reduction in the environmental footprint of such products. Whether or not the adoption of Digital Fabrication will have an effect during the disposal stage of the product life cycle is unclear.
In summary, the adoption of Digital Fabrication is believed to motivate manufacturers to create a new generation of environmentally more benign products. To achieve this, the following recommendations for research can be made:
• Explore the various environmental effects of the adoption of Digital Fabrication, benchmarking conventional manufacturing processes against Digital Fabrication technology variants used in similar applications.
• Increase the awareness of digital fabrication sustainability by researching and publishing results of comprehensive life-cycle analyses.
• Develop and offer innovative design tools providing the possibility to utilise sustainability as one criterion and guide in product development and design.
Training and Education
It is necessary to develop both basic and comprehensive training and education in the area of Digital Fabrication, to respond to the challenges brought by the new technologies, new material properties and the design of the totally new types of products. These processes are relatively new and consequentially there are a limited number of experts in this area. Without a broader understanding of the processes and facilities that Digital Fabrication offers, the development and uptake of the techniques will be limited and slow.
The recruitment of staff with sufficient technical expertise and knowledge is often a barrier to the growth of businesses as well as research institutions. There is, and will always be, a competition between companies to acquire skilled personnel whose expertise is scarce. Specific training modules need to be developed encompassing design/modelling, processes, materials and applications.
To address this requirement, it is recommended that a strategy on multiple levels should be developed to improve the complementary skills base required. This will further promote the diffusion of Digital Fabrication. Such a strategy should include engagement in schools, professional training and tailored courses in higher education.
Growth potential for Digital Fabrication: Two examples of application domains
The global size of the graphical commercial printing industry is $650 billion (€480 billion). The printing industry is one of the biggest industries in the world (compare with automotive: $650 billion and consumer electronics: $350 billion). Of this global printing market, still only 10% of all printed volume is produced with digital printing technology. As the digital age advances, the traditional analogue printing industry is in decline (-5 % per year) while at the same time the conversion from analogue to digital printing technologies is fuelling growth of the digital printing industry. Next to graphical applications, industrial printing has emerged as a new and fast growing industry with a wide range of new applications for a wide range of markets. Printing is evolving from “printing of information” to “printing of things”. Over the past decade, an almost unlimited number of new applications have been identified. Examples can be found in areas such as printed electronics, solar cells, displays, food and nutrition, medical diagnostics, 3D printing and even for printing of human tissue and organs.
Additive manufacturing (3D printing)
The global market size of additive manufacturing (3D printing) in 2012 was $2.2 billion (€1.6 billion), and the growth rate from 2010 to 2011 as well as 2011 to 2012 was almost 29 % (Wohlers 2012). Estimates for growth vary from €5 to €80 billion by the year 2020, depending on the source. The European share of the total number of systems sold is estimated to be approximately at 19 % (Wohlers 2012). However, instead of looking just at the figures and the size of the AM businesses directly, it is equally important to try to understand the overall economic impact that this technology is having. Additive manufacturing is increasingly utilised in various high-value application areas; visual aids, functional models and other prototyping applications, tooling, various medical applications and increasingly for production of end-use parts, i.e. direct part production. Of these, the latter is expected to become the largest and the most significant application of AM technology. In less than ten years direct part production has grown from almost nothing to 28 % of the total revenue from AM (Wohlers 2013).
Industry size and growth potential are important aspects when evaluating the relevance of industrial development initiatives. However, to get a balanced view of the topic, other criteria should be taken into account as well. It is clear that Digital Fabrication has a number of positive impacts on society and the economy, relating to e.g. the ageing population, individualisation and sustainability:
Policy related: Macro-economic European policy supports the projected benefits of Digital Fabrication because of the potential for creation of new manufacturing capabilities. This is underpinned by development of high tech educational skills, knowledge and job creation (getting manufacturing back to Europe). Although we envision that manufacturing will return to developed countries, this does not imply that manufacturing jobs will return as well. The (digital) factories of the future are thought to require a completely different workforce. Instead of workers in oily overalls on the factory floor, future manufacturing jobs will require a wider skill set. Most jobs would not be on the factory floor but in nearby offices, which would consist primarily of designers, engineers, IT specialists, logistics experts, marketing staff and other professionals. As the nature of manufacturing jobs changes, so should the labour force and an education system geared to this new digital fabrication paradigm.
In terms of global economical impact, McKinsey predicts that 3D printing alone could be responsible for revenues of between $230 billion and $550 billion per year by 2025. (Manyika 2013)
Economy: By applying digital technologies, in particular 2D and 3D Digital Fabrication, simplified supply chains become reality, which increase companies’ competitiveness and improve productivity. At the same time these technologies enable mass customisation by localised on-demand manufacturing in Europe (so called mini factories, at regional level as well as retail level).
Society: Consumer requests for personalised, comfortable, safe, healthy, affordable and sustainable products are growing over a range of sectors from high technology goods to apparel, footwear and household products. Technology solutions will also need to be developed to respond to the challenges posed by an ageing population. For elderly people the development and production of bespoke products tailored to individual needs will particularly benefit from the design freedom and flexibility that Digital Fabrication offers. Examples are hearing aids, orthotics, implants, dental implants and prosthetics. Further in the future Digital Fabrication even holds the promise of being able to produce tissue and organ replacement parts.
Technology: Complex part creation with better functional properties. Digital technologies, i.e. AM, provide increased geometric complexity enabling compact lightweight design as well as making products using less parts. Multi-functionality and new forms of functionality will bring European manufacturing companies competitive advantages based on the product function instead of the manufacturing price. The knowledge added inside the product will come from the expertise of optimising the functionality through the design, the choice of the material and its manufacture.
Legal: In the case of a malfunctioning 3D printed home-made part or malfunctioning products that have been designed and traded by consumers themselves, a clear framework for safety and liability issues has still not been established.
Environmental impacts (optimal material and energy utilisation): Weight reduction, compact design and a reduction in material consumption are not only important in reducing carbon foot print, they directly influence the final price of the part. This is even more important when one of the components of the part is a rare metal. Reduced energy consumption in manufacture is crucial for the control of resources in terms of electricity, gas emissions and water.
Stakeholders play important roles as advocates, sponsors, partners and agents of change. Understanding stakeholder expectations and needs is important because it guides their actions, interactions and eventually the strategies that are followed. Therefore a framework was developed within the Diginova project that considers the key components necessary to engage with stakeholders in order to understand their current actions, capabilities and needs. The broad aim of such engagement activities was to enable better interaction and alignment work along existing or shifting value chains and contribute to the creation of new innovation networks.
In order to understand what is required by different stakeholders to become successful players in the emerging field of Digital Fabrication, we organized dedicated workshops in conferences that attracted potential stakeholders of Digital Fabrication from relevant communities. Thus our approach in identifying the key stakeholders was to orchestrate interactive sessions on digital fabrication in conferences where relevant such stakeholders would be present. In addition, a questionnaire was designed and distributed to the stakeholders to better document their expectations and future vision as to where Digital Fabrication might be headed in the next 10 to 20 years.
This section provides a brief overview of all results obtained through the above mentioned activities. The following paragraphs present the results of highest importance for the context of the Diginova Digital Fabrication roadmap, dealing with vision, value-chain, targets and current actions of the stakeholders in the key application fields defined by the project.
Vision & targets
Looking at the Gartner hype cycle analysis we have found that 42% of the stakeholders perceive Digital Fabrication positioned at the peak of inflated expectations. Interestingly, an approximately equal share of respondents considers Digital Fabrication to be at the stage of technological trigger (19%), while another group perceives it at the slope of enlightenment (20%). In other words, uncertainty concerning Digital Fabrication technologies is still high, with no clear consensus on the technologies’ status. The Digital Fabrication roadmap will help to overcome these uncertainties.
A possible explanation for the variation of the statements might come from the industry in which the respondent are active as well as the media attention, in particular for home 3D printers. In 2013, Gartner for the first time makes a distinction between consumer 3D printing (at the top of the hype cycle), 3D bioprinting (innovation trigger) and enterprise 3D printing (slope of enlightenment).
Despite the uncertainties around the hype cycle positioning, when asked to specify the years to market of various applications, a strong consensus crystallised around a first set of projected applications and time frames.
Looking at the application categories, short-term targets involve decoration of products (78%), digitisation of the traditional printing industry (76%), textile printing (75%), packaging (71%), display graphics (66%), OLED lighting and displays (59%), and printed sensors (58%). However, in contrast, consensus on the commercialisation of mid-term applications is less strong. That being said, the probability of smart textiles (46%), durable goods (44%), personalised diagnostics and delivery (41%), sensing (40%), integrated electronics (39%), smart windows (38%), and energy storage (37%) entering the market within the next 10 years aggregates a significant percentage of respondents projections. With a 15+ -year time horizon, respondents identify the following long-term targets: treatment planning tools (64%), power generation and transmission (53%), tissue engineering scaffolds (44%), medical microfactories (39%), and digitally fabricated garments (38%).
In order to elaborate on the future vision for Digital Fabrication, stakeholders were asked to react to 5 broad vision statements about the future of Digital Fabrication. An overwhelming 85% of respondents believe Digital Fabrication is part of an ongoing industry revolution and will be supplemented by new materials and technologies. When asked whether Digital Fabrication will be an integral part of worldwide manufacturing, 74% of respondents either agree or strongly agree. A further 73% claim the applications enabled by Digital Fabrication will transcend customers’ imagination. The sustainable character of these technologies in the future generates 53% of positive response as to being in strong or moderate agreement, while 57% of respondents strongly or moderately agree that Digital Fabrication paves the way to a distributed manufacturing system that enables mass production of bespoke products and solutions while securing value for innovators and restoring the manufacture of products to their geographically diversified, end-user base.
While the majority of respondents’ activities (91%) are tool-oriented such as providing materials (21%), printing equipment (26%), functional components (17%), or integrating and manufacturing Digital Fabrication technology (27%), a significantly low number of stakeholders are in application oriented production, producing end products (9%) with Digital Fabrication technology. If not indicating a lack of commercial activity, this finding infers that a transition phase from technology to application development may be at hand. Correspondingly, creating awareness for this within the Digital Fabrication community is identified as a necessity as well as an opportunity.
Whether or not support actions are already applied there is broad consensus that a wider choice of materials (89%) and improved material properties (88%) are required as business-enhancing developments for the Digital Fabrication market. Optimising accuracy (83%), repeatability (82%) and speed (80%), form a second group of issues that must be addressed. A third and final cluster of necessary developments on which respondents either strongly or moderately agree are a broadened product range (83%), standardisation (70%) and cheaper machines (69%).
What becomes clear from the questionnaire results is that the perceptions of the required business-enhancing developments as well as the support actions do perfectly match the Digital Fabrication technology barriers identified by the Diginova experts. In fact, the major barriers for 2D and 3D Digital Fabrication to overcome are related to speed, reliability and the limited range of materials. For 2D Digital Fabrication, the top priorities to address on are: prevention, prediction, detection and correction of failures in printing processes. These priorities are mainly related to the heart of the manufacturing process, the print engine, which includes the print head architecture and operating system. The barriers for 3D Digital Fabrication are mainly related to design for additive manufacturing, reliability, predictability and scale-up of the processes as well as the absence of standards and certification.
A first round observation indicates that, depending on the position in the value chain, the opportunities viewed by the stakeholders may differ. It is important to note that stakeholders with an upstream position in the value chain (science and industry) point to the promises of Digital Fabrication technologies and the wonderful possibilities they will enable for new product development. On the other hand, stakeholders with more down-stream positions point to the impact of the technological change that is being promised. The opportunities are then mainly viewed in relation to the possible shifts in value chains and industry structure. A general, yet important finding is that independent of the position of the stakeholders in the value chain, the new/changing role of end-users is viewed as a key opportunity. In short, it is expected that the democratization process of product development enabled by the possibilities of digital fabrication technologies will help to accelerate the search process for new applications and products that are valued by the end users across different sectors.
In the same vein, stakeholders with an upstream position in the value chain (Science and industry) point to technological barriers as key challenges that have to be overcome to enact the vision of digital fabrication. Complex challenges related to system design and software are examples of technological barriers that were often mentioned during the workshops. In contrast, the discussions among stakeholders with a more down-stream perspective revolved around requirements that have to be met before market entry of products. For instance, while the democratization process of product development was seen as a great opportunity, the stakeholders pointed to the importance of regulations and standards to ensure product quality assurance. It was often pointed out during the workshop discussions that creating complete customized products would require development of transition strategies ensuring that there is an actor that takes responsibility for quality assurance of products.
The list of additional dissemination activities is provided in paragraph 4.2 in this report.
List of Websites:
Grant agreement ID: 290559
1 March 2012
28 February 2014
€ 1 676 173,50
€ 1 265 785
OCE TECHNOLOGIES B.V.
Deliverables not available
Publications not available
Grant agreement ID: 290559
1 March 2012
28 February 2014
€ 1 676 173,50
€ 1 265 785
OCE TECHNOLOGIES B.V.
Grant agreement ID: 290559
1 March 2012
28 February 2014
€ 1 676 173,50
€ 1 265 785
OCE TECHNOLOGIES B.V.