The Strategic Research Agenda for the Swedish Additive Metal Manufacturing Industry

Målberg, S., Edström, A.
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Additive manufacturing is an industrial tsunami. Swim towards the wave – prepare yourself to the best of your abilities – or run to the mountains and find other things to do. But don’t stand still on the beach, do nothing and pretend that it’s business as usual.

Additive manufacturing could, of course, be regarded as “just another production technology”. It won’t replace casting, milling, turning or welding. But it does open up a new spectrum of design possibilities, and can be used for hitherto unimaginable components with new functionalities, as well as radically reduce leadtimes and total component costs. And it is applicable – with various business models – in almost any industry making metal components. Since AM offers a radically larger design space, the greatest impact will be on how future products are designed, which might seem like a paradox for a new production technology.

Additive manufacturing has passed the peak of the hype curve, and is steadily becoming an established manufacturing methodology, with an expected annual growth of 28% for metal AM. As with all innovations, though, there are some challenges to overcome before it can be considered mainstream.

Most of the challenges can and will be met by day-to-day industrial and academic activities. Many of them have been listed by other stakeholders, e.g. in the Ramp-Up report. However, we would like to prioritize three challenges – design competence, quality and productivity, and occupational health issues. These are the areas that in our opinion need focused national collaboration, following an industral timeline, if a small country like Sweden wants to stay internationally competitive.


We would therefore like to see three nation wide initiatives:

One: A large, nationally coordinated effort to include additive manufacturing design issues in the technical universities, technical secondary schools and other education providers. The Swedish industry will probably need about 1,000 educated AM designers in five years, and some 5,000 in ten years. On top of that, employees ranging from operators to procurement and HR – and not least on various management level – will need at least conceptual AM competence. 

Two: A nationally coordinated effort to increase quality and productivity, including development of non-destructive testing procedures and characterization of the most common and useful industrial AM materials, and to make these characterizations public and easily applicable. Improved industrialization of the post-processing must not be forgotten in this context.

Three: A national center for the occupational health issues regarding AM, with expertise ranging from AM production to nanomaterial and heavy metal toxicity. We hope to share our goals, ambitions and priorities with as many influential people as possible.

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