3D Software

EU-funded project developing new AI-powered remanufacturing platform

A €5.6 million European Union (EU)-funded project has been launched to promote the remanufacturing of components and products throughout Europe and create a fully circular supply chain.       

Called CREDIT, the project is headed by the science engineering firm Idener, which will lead the development of a new digital platform designed to facilitate remanufacturing and circularity. This platform will include AI-driven decision support systems, among other digital tools and services.   

The project, which has been financed by the EU’s Horizon Europe programme, is targeted towards manufacturers within the home appliance, automotive, telecommunications, and aerospace industries. 

The announcement of CREDIT follows the implementation of the EU’s Right to Repair legislation. Passed in 2021, this policy seeks to promote circular supply chains and reduce obsolescence amid a challenging global trade environment and increased emphasis on environmental sustainability. The EU is aiming to be climate-neutral by 2050 and has committed to the domestic production of at least 40% of its renewable energy components by 2030.     

London-based software developer Crowdhelix has been named as a collaborator on the CREDIT project. The firm’s CEO, Michael Browne, calls the initiative “innovative,” believing  that it will drive “groundbreaking research across multiple manufacturing industries by promoting international collaboration and first-rate science.”

“The project also speaks to the ambitions of the Made in Europe innovation agenda, bringing together leading organizations from European manufacturing ecosystems to nurture their leadership in circular industries, ensuring that Europe has a competitive, green manufacturing sector,” added Browne. “Crowdhelix is privileged to contribute to such a significant project by helping to bring key stakeholders from across the project’s lengthy value chain together”.

The CREDIT team believes that this project will improve manufacturing efficiency, lower production costs, and increase competitiveness while cutting down on waste, reducing CO2 emissions and limiting the raw material consumption.   

CREDIT project logo. Image via the CREDIT project.
CREDIT project logo. Image via the CREDIT project.

CREDIT project to enhance remanufacturing  

Remanufacturing and circular supply chains are key to the EU’s sustainability goals. The EU’s Ecodesign Directive and Energy Labelling Regulation give customers the ‘right to repair’ the goods they have purchased. Manufacturers are legally required to make spare parts available to customers for up to ten years, extending product life and reducing waste.

This legislation arose amid growing concerns that goods aren’t lasting as long as they should. Some have suggested that manufacturers are designing devices with planned obsolescence and deliberately short life spans, leading to high levels of electrical waste. According to the Right to Repair campaign, 53 million tonnes of this waste is produced yearly, only 15-20 percent of which is recyclable.      

Building on this policy, the CREDIT project seeks to increase the adoption of sustainable and resilient production processes. To achieve this, the project will create a suite of digital services designed to bolster the remanufacturing capabilities of companies.    

These services will include AI-powered decision support systems, distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based traceability and quality control, predictive maintenance, augmented reality, and multi-layered digital twin creation.  

Lidia Parrilla Benitez, a CREDIT project coordinator, believes that digital twins offer significant potential for sustainable manufacturing. “Remanufacturing and circularity-enabling initiatives are crucial for reducing waste and extending the lifecycle of products,” stated Benitez. “By integrating Digital Twin technology, we can optimize these processes and innovate with precision, setting a precedent for future advancements towards a greener industry”.  

CREDIT will also provide education and upskilling resources, ensuring that manufacturers are appropriately trained and prepared to effectively utilize the new digital offerings.

Additionally, the project will present five different manufacturing-focused use cases designed to demonstrate CREDIT’s potential. It is hoped that the new digital platform will reach technology readiness level 7, being demonstrated in operational environments across multiple industries.     

The flag of the European Union. Photo via Adobe stock/Tobias Arhelger.
The flag of the European Union. Photo via Adobe stock/Tobias Arhelger.

Securing supply chains with additive manufacturing

Following the emergence of global threats to imports, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict in Ukraine, and attacks on commercial shipping, additive manufacturing is being increasingly adopted in efforts to secure supply chains. An increased focus on sustainability and the pursuit of more environmentally friendly production practices has also motivated this growing adoption.     

Earlier this year, the UK’s Department for Business and Trade (DBT) published its Critical Imports and Supply Chain Strategy, the UK’s first overarching initiative to secure access to critical goods. As part of this strategy, the DBT has highlighted the increased adoption of 3D printing as being key to reshoring manufacturing and mitigating global supply chain risks.  

“Technological innovations, such as those brought in by the 3D printing industry, have the potential to transform supply chains and how they operate, in ways that will build a stronger, more resilient economy,” a DBT spokesperson told 3D Printing Industry.

Elsewhere, UK-based 3D printing SME Additive Manufacturing Solutions Ltd. (AMS) is collaborating with the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA). Through this partnership, the company is researching the feasibility of recovering critical materials from surplus defense assets, and whether these materials are suitable for 3D printing.

AMS is initially working to deliver demonstrative geometry using recycled feedstock. Once this is completed, the company will turn its attention to material industrialization and qualification. This project supports the MoD’s ongoing efforts to create a strong, UK-based, circular supply chain for critical materials such as titanium. 

Away from the UK, industrial 3D printing materials producer 6K additive has partnered with Australian company Surgical Metal Recycling (SMR) to recycle end of life surgical implants into new 3D printable material.

The US-based firm is leveraging its UniMelt production-scale microwave plasma platform to convert the implants into new titanium powder, which can then be used to 3D print new parts. At RAPID + TCT 2023, 6K Additive’s Senior Director of Marketing, Leslie Frost, stated that this process allows for an “incredibly sustainable and circular supply chain.”                

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Featured image shows the flag of the European Union. Photo via Adobe stock/Tobias Arhelger.