Science, design and production come together to create new processes and innovative products in handicrafts and SME in Tuscany.
These opportunities were discussed at the workshop “The forms of rapid prototyping”, hosted at Toscana Promozione and organized by ARTEX – Centre for Artistic and Traditional Handicrafts of Tuscany – in collaboration with Promodesign and ISIA Florence.

Opening the workshop was Sabrina Sguanci from Artex who recalled that creative processes and crafts combined with digital skills were the focus of the recent Salone del Mobile in Milan. "The frontiers of international research focus on the creative process and the material expertise to create customized products based on small-scale production", Sguanci added.

Tuscany will be able to grasp the international phenomenon of near-shoring, which tends to bring the productions within countries. "It's a great opportunity for Italy and Tuscany as well to take advantage of a lot of talents and of the widespread know-how”- Filippo Giabbani of Toscana Promozione said “Here innovation can meet tradition for valuing different fields of knowledge".
The great news is that, because of the technological evolution, tools such as prototyping, 3D printers, robotics and laser cutters are available also to craftsmen and SMEs.

The panel showed that in Tuscany there are technological expertise, services and innovative companies creating an ecosystem that can take advantage of the opportunity of digital crafting. The applications concern areas of artistic and traditional craftsmanship, common in Tuscany, such as jewelry, textiles and clothing, leather, stone and food industry.
3D printing and prototyping offer support, for instance, for the creation of competitive products in the jewelry industry, as Valerio Morelli – VM Preziosi, jewelry workshop and design studio in Florence – testified. 3D printers using metal powders can create jewelry forms otherwise unobtainable using a smaller amount of precious metals with the same appearance. It is also possible to quickly create prototypes that accelerate the traditional production of jewelry.

The 2D advanced printing allows to create artistic designs on the surface of marble, as Claudio Morelli has also told. His company, Morelli base, is located near Carrara, the historical home of marble. For its transformation, the encounter with digital technologies was crucial.

For the marble industry in Tuscany, Garfagnana Innovazione plays a vital role. It is at the same time: a production workshop, thanks to anthropomorphic robots; a business incubator mostly dedicated to start-ups in the stone industry; and an educational center. Its Digital Stone Project includes trainings at the international level with the best students selected from the six most prestigious universities in the US and their teachers. In the area of prototyping Promodesign, an innovation consortium of product and process, provides advanced business services for the study and the development of new products and for the production process, from idea to finished product. It has many laboratories equipped with various high technology systems, rapid prototyping and reverse engineering, prototyping of traditional workstations and software for the design.

In the laser area, Monolithdesign offers a service for designers, architects, students and craftsmen. Laser systems are available in its laboratory and allow customers to cut different materials such as paper, cardboard, corrugated cardboard, plywood, cork, leather, plexiglass, etc.

The ecosystem is completed by companies providing technological tools. It is the case of El.En, that exploits the versatility of the laser and its applicability to any industry and Kentstrapper that produces up-to-date instruments for open source 3D printing. This second company was created in Florence in 2011 as the 1st Italian RepRap center by a research and development team concerned with this cheap and rapid-prototype technology.

Elisabetta Bevilacqua