A unique initiative in Europe to boost innovative projects based on additive manufacturing
Innovation, technological development, and human value are the three pillars of Europe’s first high-tech 3D printing incubator. The 3DFactory Incubator is an initiative led by the Barcelona Consorci de la Zona Franca and the FundaciÃ³n Leitat, whose goal is to promote the best initiatives related to 3D printing through the creation of a unique space and the provision of 3D production services, business consulting, marketing activities and testing services.
The call is open to all types of innovative projects that include 3D printing as one of the basic types of technology for the development of the product or business concept. These initiatives will be pursued for either six months or a year, both of which may be extended. 'œThanks to the 3D Factory Incubator, we have the chance to make use of its 3D printing services with the most advanced technology and specialised technical support,' says Monica Debat from Mondenel, one of the first companies to develop their project at the 3D Factory Incubator. The aim is to incubate around 100 initiatives throughout the life of the project, approximately 25 per year. To date, after only three months of operations, there are already some twenty incubated initiatives. This incubator, the only one in Europe, offers incubated projects a unique and modern space with a large coworking area, meeting rooms, private offices, a rest and dining area, a terrace and an open-plan training area. Josep Mateo, CEO of Liq Eyewear, describes the experience of these first few months: 'œComing to the 3D Factory has been a boost; an incredible opportunity to have access to technology, to machines that it would otherwise take much longer to access. We have it all in one building: machines, incredible technology, advice… The treatment we've received has been excellent! We believe that it will be a great opportunity and a great boost that we want to make the most of.'
The facilities, located at the headquarters of the '˜Consorci de la Zona Franca, with a total area of 600m ², have laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art 3D printing machinery: 6 different types of technology (4 industrial 3D printers – MJ, FDM and MJF – and 3 mini printers – FDM, SLA and SLS); post processing and quality control equipment; design software; and the advice of technical staff, experienced not only in the field of printing, but also in internationalisation, marketing and innovation, among others.
All these resources have a clear objective: to grow an innovative project from its earliest stages. Alan Alves, Director of 3D Digital Factory, explains that, 'œFor me, the most attractive thing about the incubator is the human value and the ecosystem that has been created. To have within my reach the services provided by all the professionals and to be able to move my office to its facilities in the industrial heart of Barcelona with the latest 3D printing technology.' He stresses: 'œI can’t think of a more favourable environment for implementing my business project.'
The opening of the 3D Factory Incubator is the first step towards establishing Barcelona as a hub for innovation in southern Europe’s Industry 4.0. After more than 10 years of development, 3D printing technology has acquired a point of maturity that allows the technology to be scaled for introduction into different sectors of industry, such as prototyping and industrial engineering, as well as for the manufacture of the final product. Additive manufacturing offers multiple advantages that new generations of entrepreneurs and start-ups have recognised and, with this in mind, have incorporated it into their business concept.
Both the incubator, which has received ERDF funds through the INCYDE Foundation, and initiatives such as the IAM 3D HUB, encourage the adoption of additive manufacturing and are helping to broaden its use in Europe's business sector.
The boost from this technology will bring about a genuine industrial revolution and will not only change the concept of production, but will also extend the limits of innovation and technological development in industry and society as we know it.