With new capacities, faster speeds, digitalized inventory, and innovative materials, additive manufacturing is moving inventory closer to the customer and forever changing global supply chains.
A new year brings great promise for inspiration and change. We need both of these ideas to move forward in 2021. Our 3D printing community came to the rescue during 2020 to keep our healthcare workers safe dealing with parts of a broken supply chain. The question now becomes: How do we take these lessons and move forward? Let’s talk about:
What we learned about 3D printing’s role in the supply chain in 2020
How 3D printing will evolve in 2021
The impact of 3D printing on supply chains in 2021 and beyond
“…Utilising 3D printing for the Eutelsat Hotbird satellites provides major labour savings and significantly reduces the number of individual required parts, according to Gareth Penlington, the Hotbird payload manager at Airbus: “This is recognised as the first large-scale deployment of RF products using the ALM process, and it puts us in an industry-leading position for the technology’s application in producing radio frequency components.”
As the technology scales up, it’s being tasked with providing robust new solutions—but it’s also running into some of the same old building problems
It seems that every few months the architecture world marvels at the latest 3D-printed prototype or art installation and wonders at the future possibilities. But to a surprising extent, the future is already here. Companies worldwide are automating the construction of homes, offices, and other structures through techniques like 3D printing, robotic finishing, and automated bricklaying. And as more join this club—and governments and investors ramp up their support—the possibility of automation soon becoming the norm in construction is not so farfetched, addressing construction efficiency, sustainability, and even labor and housing shortages.
“3D printing [on a wide scale] is a lot closer than I thought,” notes Eric Holt, assistant professor at the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver. “I used to believe it was at least five years out, but the ball has moved really quickly.”
“AM technology increases the flexibility of manufacturing and production processes, reducing both our dependence on global supply chains and logistics expenses.”
The COVID-19 virus has affected the world in an unprecedented way. The pandemic has shown us just how deeply a crisis can disrupt societies and economies that are now so interconnected on a global level. This has been especially true in the case of supply chains and production. But the situation is also creating some valuable learnings, an important one being that by embracing alternative technologies to innovate, and with industry collaboration, we can make our supply chains more reliable, cost-effective and efficient – not just now but for the longer-term.
In previous decades, medical technology as well as countless other industries, have shifted the production of components or entire products to locations with lower labour costs, far away from their target market. Unfortunately, there are cases, including the current pandemic, where the vulnerability of these fully optimised supply chains have been laid bare – leading to supply bottlenecks, weakened domestic markets and lessened autonomy.
3D printing refers to a computer-controlled construction system, in which material is deposited and layered in an organized manner to form a physical object based on a computationally designed plan. The ease of distribution of digital files that then allow one to fabricate an object locally could help to ease the burden faced by healthcare providers in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.