Addictive Additive: Blog

Our blog carves out a place for stories that connect with AM’s big future.

July 06, 2021

Lunga Vita al Trolleybus! – Long Live the Trolleybus

Everything sounds better in Italian. You know what else does? Electric future-cities. With help from the SLM® 500 and 3DnA, they sound better than ever.

By SLM Solutions

One of the hottest topics of our time is future cities. (It’s also one of the biggest debates regarding how their goals will be reached and—for climate change deniers—if they’re worth it at all.) One question tossed around the table regards public transport: How can we implement more of it? You know, car-sharing services, shared e-bikes and electric trams, buses and trains.

Since the 1940s,  trolleybuses have been an essential part of moving around Naples. For this city, trolleybuses utilize its transportation past while significantly reducing carbon emission and paving the way to a cleaner, more aware future. This makes sense locally but essentially serves people on a global level, too. Seriously, our kids will thank us as they’re rolling around in their driverless cars and still knowing what honey tastes like.

But what happens when the critical parts that make up these services are threatened? (Think busted internet.) In Italy, it is estimated that about three million people commute every day by either bus, trolleybus, or tram (Statista). Therefore, without functioning components being readily available, commuters might face the chance of being left with no means of getting to work, school or the pizzeria. Blasphemy! You know Naples is said to have the best pizza in Italy, right?

In 2020—facing glitches in supply chains and low inventory—this possibility was fast approaching for an essential part that links the trolleybus with the electricity grid: the trolley head itself. Traditionally built, the lead time for this part to be made is about 12 months. To iterate: that’s three months longer than a human baby but much quieter, cheaper and low maintenance once born. Therefore, Azienda Napoletana Mobilità (ANM)—a Neapolitan transportation company—decided to take advantage of additive and work with SLM Solutions partner 3DnA to find a way to reinstate it (the trolley head, not the needy infant). The result is faster build times and a futuristic makeover of a historic design.

In June 2020, the prototypes were sent to the Italian Transport Office. Following the approval, ANM and 3DnA are now successfully printing two different trolley heads, hoping that dwindling numbers won’t appear in the future. Now, implementing the SLM® 500, ANM and 3DnA can utilize AM methods through reverse engineering methods meaning that Naples’ iconic trolleybuses can remain a reminder of the city’s past while also serving as a nod to the world’s greener future.

So, raise a grappa to Naples for driving with futuristic means! And come to think of it, raise a glass to 3DnA, ANM and SLM Solutions for enabling a cleaner future to materialize with tomorrow’s technology.