Advanced 3D printing centre opens in Neuchâtel

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

EPFL and CSEM in Switzerland have joined forces to create the Micromanufacturing Science & Engineering Centre (M2C) for research and technology transfer around advanced 3D printing.

The centre in Neuchatel will work on high-precision 3D microfabrication, covering every step of the development process. This will cover pure research at EPFL laboratories to the transfer of sustainable, high value-added technologies to industry under the guidance of CSEM.

“3D fabrication methods are raising the bar for precision and digitization,” said Bruno Studach, the operational director of advanced manufacturing at EPFL. “These groundbreaking techniques are shifting the industrial landscape, taking us toward a future in which objects and computers are increasingly connected. Investing in these rapidly evolving fields is vital if we are to stay ahead of the global competition and remain at the forefront of innovation. The M2C was created with precisely these challenges in mind.”

Switzerland is a world leader in 3D printing technology with companies such as Scrona.

“Switzerland is the European country with the most 3D-printing patent applications filed per capita,” said Hervé Saudan, a project coordinator at CSEM.

“Europe in general is at the top of this field,” he said. “The number of patent applications has surged over the past few years, growing by 36% per annum between 2015 and 2018 according to a study by the European Patent Office. Today Europe leads the ranking, ahead of China and the US. This trend is a real boon to the Swiss economy, as the country’s competitiveness and ability to attract skilled workers depend largely on its capacity for innovation.”

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With 3D printing, every step in the process can be digitized, from design to production and a single machine can build fundamentally different objects. The scientists and engineers at the M2C will explore ways to use new materials and production systems through design, development and testing.

The M2C points to applications in space exploration, custom prosthetics, microfluidic devices and watchmaking. As sensors and other technologies can be built directly into these components, they open the door to the collection of varied and precise data sets for applications such as predictive maintenance and complex system monitoring.

The M2C team will develop systems and components ranging from a few microns to several dozen centimetres.

“This multidisciplinary alliance will allow EPFL and CSEM labs to share cutting-edge facilities and work together to fast-track the adoption of new manufacturing technologies,” says Olha Sereda, the group leader in additive manufacturing at CSEM. “That means Swiss manufacturers will keep pushing the boundaries of innovation and stay competitive on the global stage.”

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