Sustainable and knowledge-based employment have been brought a step closer for Europe”s manufacturing industry, thanks to one EU-funded project. Work carried out has the potential to introduce novel changes to product design and manufacture processes.

Given the intense competition that Europe’s manufacturing industries face from the Far East, there is an urgent need to transform the sector and also thus boost the economy. A transformation calls for two critical moves: the first from primarily resource-based–driven manufacturing to knowledge-based–driven manufacturing; and the second from mass-produced, single-use products to new concepts of customisation, eco-efficiency, sustainability and higher added value.

European researchers are confident the above can be achieved with Rapid Manufacturing (RM), the evolution and current technological capabilities of which have the potential to trigger a new industrial and digital revolution. With product and product tool development and manufacturing enjoying faster turnaround thanks to rapid prototyping, RM is thus also an ideal production method for parts as well as end products.

The Custom-fit project set out to contribute to such a high-tech transformation of Europe’s manufacturing sector with a view to regaining and boosting competitiveness. Team members aimed to develop and integrate a breakthrough manufacturing process that delivers unrestricted geometrical freedom, gradient structures of various material compositions with less labour and improved RM machines and processes.

Focusing on products that enhance citizens” quality of life and improve applications suited for large market potential, work centred on medical goods and customisation of consumer durables.

As RM calls for identification of the requirements of the final product, reverse engineering, a common method used to capture 3D shapes, has much to offer this approach for achieving radically different product designs. There is a large market potential for Custom-fit products; the process has already brought commercial and financial benefits to both the medical and consumer durables sectors. 

Applications enable companies to overcome legal, commercial, strategic, financial and supply chain barriers — considerations that were taken into account by Custom-fit before proceeding with technological developments. Having showcased the benefits of RM — lower costs, materials enhancements and customisation, for example — Custom-fit succeeded in putting the spotlight on ways to revolutionise the European manufacturing industry.

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