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Technical innovation and global industrial performance: the case of 3d printing

Technical innovation and global industrial performance: the case of 3d printing

Type of text : Opinion
Type of referral : Own initiative
Working group : Section for Economic Activities

Rapporteur(s) :

Enterprise Group
Date adopted : 24/03/2015 | Period : 2010-2015

Additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) refers to software-driven processes that manufacture objects through the successive depositing of extremely fine layers of material that are then made solid by means of an energy source. This enables accurate and complex shapes to be formed directly and only uses the amount of material that is strictly necessary, as opposed to traditional "subtractive" methods.

Although it is still too early to gauge exactly what role this digital technology will play in economic activities, it does seem to offer considerable potential, and, based on continuous progress being made both in terms of the performance of machines and the variety of materials that can be used, it is already certain that it will be indispensable in many sectors, such as health, aeronautics and space, jewellery, food and the construction and civil engineering sectors. The most fascinating possibilities are already beginning to emerge, for example with the huge potential offered by the use of biological tissue.
Clearly, France cannot allow this opportunity to pass it by and must encourage its production base to fully embrace this innovation . The recommendations made by the ESEC seek, accordingly, to boost our advantages in terms of software, services and materials, and to address certain weaknesses, particularly in the areas of training, research and financing.
This opinion also highlights certain issues common to all digital technologies that have considerable potential to challenge the current model of production. What they share is the fact that they profoundly alter the nature of products and services (from mass-production to bespoke production) and the location of production (with promising prospects for the development of local activity), and that they cause new actors to emerge in the chain of production and radically alter the organisation of labour (which becomes more collaborative).
Taking 3D printing as an example, the ESEC advocates that the public authorities and all economic and social actors in France should seize upon what the technology has to offer in order to improve the global performance of the French economy and prepare it for "the factory of the future".