Research & Education

Enthusiasm for additive manufacturing

On a Thursday in late February, a group of about 20 professionals and industrialists belonging to Club Ambrosetti were astonished to discover the production capacity of our facility in Cameri during a visit to the factory.
A professional group set up in 1965 by Alfredo Ambrosetti, The European House - Ambrosetti serves as a point of reference in Italy and abroad for society, business and industry in the fields of economic development and technological excellence. In 1999, it created a Club reserved for top executives from national and multinational groups and companies operating in Italy which currently has more than 300 members.
The factory visit was organized in conjunction with a meeting of the Club devoted to innovation and in Italian industry. Avio Aero was represented by Mauro Varetti, Additive Manufacturing Product Leader, and Alessandro Di Gioia, plant manager at the Cameri facility. The meeting focused on the revolutionary technology of additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, which is able to create solid objects of any shape by combining layers of metallic powders based on a digital model. The Avio Aero factory in Cameri is one of the largest facilities in the world specially devoted to this technology. It produces components for the aeronautical engines of the future, combining increasingly high performance with quiet operation and lower emissions.
“During the meeting we explored the commercial, economic and social aspects of this technology, including logistic factors, environmental and occupational impact,” Mauro Varetti told us. “The guests were impressed by the very concrete experience they had here in Cameri. Never before have they had an opportunity to observe this technology first hand.”
Sandro De Poli, President and CEO of GE for Italy and Israel spoke at the workshop. We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

What’s your role within GE in Italy ?
My job within GE Italia is to coordinate GE’s industrial operations at a national level. To do this I liaise with all the industrial businesses. I’m based in Milan so as to be closer to the centre of Italian politics in Rome while maintaining close contact with the industrial activities that take place near this region.

To what extent is your role linked to the activities and business of Avio Aero?             
My links with your business essentially consist of institutional relations. On the one hand I maintain links with Rome, on the other I’m in close contact with the local areas within which we operate. One of our key goals is to expand this national industrial platform so as to generate more and more work for the GE Aviation Group in Italy.

How is our business positioned at a European level?
I see it as a business with an extremely high technological level and certainly one of the flagships of GE technology within Europe. I believe it has outstanding growth potential for the coming years.

Today we are in one of our company’s most technologically advanced facilities. What difference do you think this can make?
Having understood what we do at this facility in Cameri, I think that this is probably the world’s most advanced centre for 3D printing of metals. It will be extremely useful not only for GE but for the whole of Italian industry, which stands out for its high level of excellence in the field of precision engineering. This is the next frontier for precision engineering, which is why we have invited various players in the Italian industrial sector to find out more about the technology. For them it could be the next big opportunity or the next big risk.

What development prospects does GE have in Italy and Europe?
The development potential I see today essentially involves the field of electrical energy production. We also have room for improvement in the Healthcare sector, but not dramatically. I think that the important thing at a national level is not just to try to sell more but to produce more here. Our country has become extremely competitive. Already today exports account for around three-quarters of our revenues from Italian operations and sales to Italian customers the remaining quarter, so I think we can play a very important role. And there’s something else we mustn’t forget: according to GE’s 2013 financial statement, Italy accounted for 10 billion dollars out of total revenues of 147 billion dollars. This is a fact that many people are unaware of, not least our Chairman who was surprised when I told him in September!
My message for our Avio Aero colleagues is to do everything they can to ensure that the Aviation business is increasingly motivated to invest in Italy. We are currently working to solve some problems, after which I’m sure that this platform can become much larger and more important. We have all the skills we need, as well as competitive costs compared to the other GE platforms around the world. Our potential is in our own hands. We enjoy strong support from the government, so I see a very bright future for us all.