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Harnessing AM for a sustainable, circular world | Interview with the Founders of f3nice

Founded by Italian innovators, f3nice is a promising startup aiming to use Additive Manufacturing technology to facilitate a circular and sustainable future of 3D printing.

Launched in 2020, the startup took part in Equinor & Techstars Energy Accelerator, where the founding leaders Luisa Elena Mondora and Matteo Vanazzi met their third team leader, Philip Hansteen. 

As AM is quickly gaining traction and growing a reputation as a key industry in fueling a more sustainable, circular economy and society, F3nice is innovating at a critical part of developing these new approaches.

The startup is rethinking industrial production by leveraging the power of AM. It’s on a mission to help 3D printing customers increment sales while lowering their carbon footprint, by providing metal powder that is made from 100% recycled scrap. 

At this year’s AMTC, powered by Oerlikon, we had the chance to chat with Luisa and Philip to learn more about F3nice’s story, what sustainability means to them, and what’s next for this rapidly-evolving industry. 

The founding story

F3nice was launched in Italy in 2020 and in 2021, they joined the Equinor & Techstars Energy Accelerator in Oslo. The company is now a Norwegian-Italian venture, able to leverage “the best of both worlds” as the founders claim. 

So, what is F3nice’s aim as a company?

Luisa: “We are committed to providing a sustainable feedstock for metal additive manufacturing technologies. We recycle 100% metal scrap to produce our metal powder that has the same quality as the standard products on the market, but 70% average energy saving and 90% CO2 saving.” 

“The goal is to help our customer reach their net zero goals by helping lower their carbon footprint with sustainable AM feedstock.”

Philip: Cement, plastic, and metals manufacturing accounts for over 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. So solving the sustainability element in metal manufacturing through AM is a huge opportunity. That’s the main goal of F3nice and what really attracted me to the company. Together with a great team, they’re solving a big problem, and I wanted to be part of that journey.”

What inspired F3nice?

Luisa: “F3nice came from an idea I had of taking the material that is from the commissioning of old Oil & Gas assets and finding a way to make it into powder without going through the entire value chain. And so, I contacted Matteo – a friend from my university days. We did our bachelor in materials engineering together, and we have been close friends ever since. Matteo did his masters and his PhD and is a researcher and my ‘go-to’ guy for anything science-y.” 

“Then, when covid happened, we found ourselves with a lot of free time on our hands. Together, we started working on this idea, to see if there was a feasible way to implement this idea.We found out about the Equinor programme and figured they would be a great way to get up-and-running in this sector. And, that’s where we found Philip!”

Becoming pan-European

By taking part in the Equinor & Techstars Energy Accelerator the F3nice team was able to take on a pan-European identity, leverage different insights and perspectives, pick up cash and find new markets to enter – and that’s without maintaining the integration of Philip into the team, who at the time was working with Equinor (partner of the programme). 

It meant that the Italian innovators went to Oslo, and, from this Nordic capital, have been able to expand the vision of facilitating a more sustainable approach to AM, and as a result, a more sustainable socio-economic outlook

What was interesting about Norway?

Luisa: “There’s a couple of reasons why Norway looked like the right place to launch our company. Firstly, because of the focus on sustainability-led innovation that is much more significant in Norway compared to Southern Europe.”

“Secondly, Norway is the perfect country to scale an AM startup from because there is so much scrap material there. At the same time, there is a healthy and growing AM industry there that benefits from the scope of manufacturing in general in the country. It’s a place with a high focus on technology and so we saw that as the perfect sweet spot to try and attract investors.”

Accessing the accelerator programme

Philip: F3nice was one out of 440 applicants from about 44 different countries that year. It entered the programme in 2021. As soon as they came into the programme, I was immediately impressed.” 

Luisa: The programme was held remotely, so we didn’t have the chance to get the full value of being in Norway or join in-person networking or make in-person connections.” 

“However, it was still great to form some strong bonding with the other founders, especially a couple of the other startups, and we are still in contact today. We help each other. We have created a strong support network that spans between Norway and the US.”

“We were also able to learn about how to deal with a corporate beast such as Equinor – which is a huge corporation with a global presence. That was a steep learning curve for sure, and a great experience that exposed us to how the industry operates.”

For Philip, F3nice’s entry into the programme scored him a new venture – what caught his eye the most? The company’s commitment to the team and ability to make a tangible impact. 

Philip: “You can have a great idea, but you need a great team to execute it. Sometimes you have to be humble and you certainly have to be coachable. You have to be proactive and take feedback into account for you to accelerate. I saw that immediately in this team, and these qualities helped them succeed throughout the programme.”

Founding with a commitment to team and trust

F3nice has, therefore, been built on a foundation of friendship and mutual respect. It’s a startup that has endeavoured to build based on principles of trust, transparency and teamwork – and it’s clearly working. 

Luisa: “In my personal life before starting F3nice, I saw the issues that can happen between founders of a company, shareholders of a company, because when you start something, everybody is working so hard, but then when you start to have some success, you start to see some money on the table. The true personality of people can come out – and sometimes it isn’t so nice.”

“For me, the only way to build F3nice was with Matteo – a person I trust completely. He brings trust, and expertise and is a positive and indispensable influence for the venture. I needed someone that I could trust completely, blindly. The skills you can always hire, but for a shareholder, you need someone you can trust.”

The founders have been driven by a motivation to make a change. To make a circular economy possible and harness the power of sustainability-centric AM to achieve that. They prioritised creating a solid founding team, each committed to the mission and each focused on achieving economic success in complement with, and not at the expense of, their wider goals and inherent values. 

Harnessing AM for a sustainable world

F3nice is helping create a circular future for manufacturing. By recycling scrap metal, the company is able to create a metal powder that can be used for 3D printing, and give the innovators of tomorrow the resources they need to be truly carbon neutral. 

We wanted to learn more about their approach to sustainability and just how F3nice is contributing to a circular, carbon-neutral world. 

What is F3nice’s upcycling process?

Luisa: We basically take metal scrap from various sources and of different shapes, forms and types. It could be bulk scrap like a pipe or a fitting or it could be chips from CNC manufacturing. The beauty of it is that metal is recyclable and it keeps its value.This is why we call it upcycling, because at the end of the day, the end-product retains or even augments its value.”

“We take the scrap and combine it with different alloys, different shapes and forms of scrap and put it through our unique process in order to have a consistent quality of end-product.” 

Ensuring a supply of scrap metal 

Philip: “With our combined background and experience in the oil and gas industry, we all became aware of the decommissioning assets in Norway, the UK and elsewhere –as this is a global trend. And that’s what inspired the company. These assets have, until now, been contributing to waste. There’s so much decommissioning, so there’s a massive supply chain.”

“Also, by upcycling, we are creating a natural circular economy, which is what people want, it’s much more robust and more resilient. We aren’t relying on scarce sourcing materials, we are taking what is already there.” 

“Given the company’s unique upcycling process, the fact that they take what has been discarded and transform it into a valuable product, that can be used and then re-used once again, means the industry has a solid business plan. It’s not likely they’ll run out of materials any time soon and the demand for their products is high. The company’s end product, which is then used by 3d printing firms, is sold at the same cost and it doesn’t compromise on quality – so it seems a real win-win.”

Luisa: “We are industry-agnostic. We can take metal scrap from many industries and our metal powder end-product can be used across industries as well – from energy to automotive to medical.”

“Of course in some industries, there are specific regulations in place, so we are currently working our way to getting the right certifications and processes in space. For example, to create medical grade material.” 

When you talk about metal 3D printing, it’s not just robot technologies. But it can also be used for laser powdered fusion, binder jetting, direct energy deposition and so forth.” 

“Being industry agnostic gives us a robust market position.”

Putting AM on the agenda

Additive manufacturing is regarded as being one of the major contributors to a more circular and sustainable world. It’s an industry that has been around for generations, but now with new tech and digital advancements, it’s really entering a new era, with enormous potential to influence and shape our world. 

Despite this, AM isn’t exactly a term that everyone is familiar with. It’s not a tech vertical that is hitting the headlines every day and maybe isn’t the most trending or sexiest of industries. But it’s undeniably one with exciting market potential and the ability to actively shape the future. 

What is in store for F3nice in the coming years?

Luisa: “We want to open small plants around the world – we think that makes the most sense. All of the materials that we use, and the end use-cases, all exist on a global level, whether it be Singapore, Brazil, UAE, Australia or South Korea. We want to go global instead of having a huge corporation in Europe making the product and shipping it.”

“By taking this approach, of having a globally distributed network, the firm will also further its sustainability initiatives, cutting down on carbon emissions from ground transportation and sharing the innovation around the world. It’s this concept of collaboration and sharing of ideas that excited Philip when looking to the future.”

Philip: “We believe in working together in a  collaborative way. So we work on many joint industry projects and we want to continue to do so. Working collaboratively, we will lift AM.”

“I think it’s really important in AM that we create a culture of collaboration and working together. People think differently, and to succeed, you need to share ideas and keep pushing forward.”

It’s this spirit of collaboration and the sharing of ideas that informs and inspires AMTC. Taking part in the event was a chance for F3nice’s founders to get on stage, pitch their startup share their unique venture and connect with different leaders and thinkers who can help push their mission forward. 

“Together, we can learn new opportunities and solutions.”

AMTC: AM Technology Conference is an annual event that brings together different players in the AM industry from across the world. Including corporates of global enterprises like Boeing and Audi as well as investors and startups innovating at the early stages of product development, the event aims to open up discussions that will push forward this growing industry.

Editor’s Note: This post has been created in collaboration and with financial support from Oerlikon AM. If you’re also interested in partnering with us, just reach out.

Patricia Allen
Patricia Allen
is the Head of Content at EU-Startups. With a background in politics, Patricia has a real passion for how shared ideas across communities and cultures can bring new initiatives and innovations for the future. She spends her time bringing you the latest news and updates of startups across Europe, and curating our social media.
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