KETs Impact: 3D-printing for on-demand production


The recent SusChem White paper ‘Impact: Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) in Horizon Europe’ included a number of success stories highlighting publicly funded innovation involving KETs and the SusChem Newsroom is featuring a selection of these fruitful 'SusChem inspired' initiatives.

KETs are technologies selected for their ability to address global challenges, support the development of new products, and stimulate economic growth.

Sustainable chemistry is essential to the technological advance of KETs including advanced materials, advanced manufacturing technologies, industrial biotechnology, micro and nanoelectronics, nanotechnology and photonics. SusChem's key enabling technologies provide the critical building blocks for the solutions needed to achieve a sustainable low carbon circular economy. You can find out more here.

The sixth success story in this summer series features a project that developed a successful business model based on rapid, on-demand manufacture of individual spare parts. Exploitation should significantly reduce warehouse stock and associated costs: DIRECTSPARE. Rapid manufacturing technologies, such as 3D-printing (aka Additive manufacturing), can enable fast manufacture of often-complex parts. 


3D-Printing polymer materials

Technology breakthroughs enabled the creation of new business models, investments and jobs

For Evonik DIRECTSPARE was an important project within a longer period of research, development and innovation concerning material for additive manufacturing. Without EU public funding, this project would not have taken place. This would have extended the time to market considerably, resulting in a high risk of being passed by competitors from outside the EU. 


Evonik has performed R&D on polymer materials for 3D-printing for about 20 years and is now commercially producing its first 3D-printing materials. A part of the R&D was done within the EU-Project DIRECTSPARE. A growing quantity of product types in every market and every sector of industry require large warehouses to keep stock for spare parts, with corresponding high costs and complex logistics. This emerging problem is caused by continuously decreasing product lifetime, decreasing time-to-market and increasing regulatory affairs. DIRECTSPARE aimed to find a solution using additive manufacturing (AM) technology, enabling economically viable, and on demand manufacturing of spare parts. 

How was the breakthrough innovation achieved? 

The project consortium consisted of technology providers, engineering companies, equipment producers, material producers, manufacturers, users, management consultants and academia. The DIRECTSPARE project has delivered several business models that allow SMEs to provide local services. Possibilities and challenges for obtaining cost reduction on stocks and warehousing have been identified. The project also learned that to obtain waste reduction and environmental benefits, a life cycle analysis approach needs to be used. One demonstrator part indeed proved that quality improvement, based on use information, can be achieved resulting in lower costs and better margins.

The objective of the DIRECTSPARE business model was for manufacturers to rapidly produce only those spare parts that are required, at a location close to the equipment that needs to be repaired. And also to improve the quality of the spare parts along the way.

The project analysed seven demonstrator parts. The functional and material requirements and the cost model of the original part were taken as the point of departure or baseline. The project team analysed the possibilities to manufacture similar parts using AM. The design, engineering aspects, material selection, production methods, quality issues and business economics of all of these parts were taken into consideration. 


The project delivered several breakthrough innovations on materials, engineering, process management and quality management. Three viable business models were developed. DIRECTSPARE created a significant networking platform for further development of new 3D-printing powders at Evonik. In February 2018 a production plant for polyamide 12 (PA 12) high performance powders, mainly for the additive manufacturing market became operational in Marl, Germany. The PA 12 material is used in automotive and lightweight design as well as in oil and gas pipelines. In addition to current applications in the automotive sector, Evonik is also very well positioned for the future production of hybrid and electric vehicles. Furthermore, the material is used in the medical sector and in 3D-printing. The investment in a new polyamide production plant secured and created around 10 new jobs.

More information
DIRECTSPARE – ‘Strengthening the industries’ competitive position by the development of a logistical and technological system for “high performance spare parts” that is based on on-demand production’ (FP7 GA 213424)

Read the SusChem White Paper ‘Impact: Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) in Horizon Europe