The novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19 pandemic has clearly illustrated the vulnerability of conventional global supply chains. Over the past decade, natural disasters, including the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in 2010, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the Thailand floods in 2011, the category five hurricane Maria in 2017, and the category four hurricane Harvey in 2017, resulted in major disruptions to company supply chains. Although the global supply chain and the majority of companies recovered from these natural calamities, the overemphasis of firms on cost-cutting measures by concentrating on production overseas through manufacturing clusters has caused many of the current problems, such as vast shortcomings in the supply of much-needed medical and non-medical products required to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, there is unavailability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers, scarcity of ventilators for patients, inadequacy of sanitiser liquid, and shortage of test kits for the public.
Bans issued by countries on the export of PPEs and products critical to fighting the pandemic have caused the global supply chains to collapse. These instances illustrate the fragility of the global supply chains amid a large disruption.
SmarTech Analysis has published a new report on the state of metal 3D printing service bureaus dubbed “The Market for Metal Additive Manufacturing Services: 2020-2029.” The report illustrates the current picture of the metal additive manufacturing (AM) service market and projects the future revenue opportunities that will emerge by relying on a robust set of quantitative data. Though the report provides a comprehensive look at the industry, it is being framed as particularly valuable given the major disruptions that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the global supply chain.
Nearly all products are made in a centralized manner, with individual components made in one set of factories and shipped to others to be assembled. As nations have shut down their borders in order to limit the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, starting with China, the globalized economy was quickly disrupted. 94 percent Fortune 1000 companies were reported as seeing their supply chains impacted in response to the pandemic, just as it was reaching its peak impact in China.
Digital manufacturing is filling holes during the pandemic with traditional production lags
As social distancing measures were ramping up in late March, freelance creative director Tito Melega and German product designer Amine Arezki had a flash of inspiration during an impromptu lunchtime Zoom gathering hosted by a mutual friend.
Arezki was discussing the use of 3D printing to help fill some of the shortages in medical masks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Melega happened to sit on the advisory board of a Knoxville, Tenn.-based 3D printing startup called Ascend Manufacturing.
Soon, the pair of previous strangers were holding daily Zoom discussions along with Ascend CEO and founder Justin Nussbaum. They fleshed out an idea for an open-source 3D-printable mask design, culminating in a project called A Mask For All.
IT giant HP Inc. and its network of customers have produced more than 25,000 3D-printed parts for medical gear like respirators and face shields to help with critical shortages of the medical supplies.
Those parts have been shipped to hospitals and healthcare providers in the U.S. and overseas to help deliver critical parts in the effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic as demand for face shields along with N95-masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) has skyrocketed.
In one example, HP is working in Spain with Príncipe de Asturias Hospital to use 3D printing to produce a respiratory circuit designed to improve the oxygenation of patients with COVID-19, company officials said. The number of parts produced is scaling quickly as requests continue for additional supplies in countries around the world, the company said.
Industry 4.0 is transforming the world of manufacturing and on-demand manufacturing or manufacturing-as-a-Service (MaaS) has an essential role to play.
Digital platforms marrying companies seeking fast, cost-effective production with others who have manufacturing capacity are increasingly streamlining supply chains, bringing benefits to all parties. MaaS operators in areas such as machining and 3D printing are offering the demand/capacity balancing that has been seen in other areas like Uber and AirBnB, suggests Professor Rab Scott, Head of Digital, University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).
“This can be attributed to connectivity and improved modeling capabilities – the ability of companies to more accurately predict when spare capacity is going to arise, and then the ability to monetize that spare capacity through these platforms. The growth of these platforms is also enabled by the acceptance of these sorts of platforms following the success of Uber etc.”
3D printing is an emerging business model that could transform the ports and terminals sector, a technology company has said.
As 3D printing becomes an increasingly viable reality for businesses, ports and terminals can use this technology to “reimagine their business models wholesale”, explained INFORM.
“After all, if cargo can be printed at the destination, this will significantly reduce the need for the plethora of long and environmentally damaging voyages containerships take on a daily basis,” said Matthew Wittemeier, marketing manager, and Karsten Schumacher, senior consultant at INFORM’s logistics division.