In a recent webinar, Chris Billings, the co-founder of Duncan Machine Products (DMP), which is a partner with my company, shared a parable that cut straight to a hurdle faced by people in their everyday lives and teams within businesses, both small and large. The story gives body to a nebulous force that holds us back, keeps us from advancing and dooms us to achieve the same results.
The often unrecognized force is a strong headwind at best, and a brick wall at worst, when change offers advantages. In simple terms, this obstacle is tradition.
Chris shared the “Grandma’s Ham” story to illustrate the paradigm he instills in his precision machine shop. Paraphrasing Zig Ziglar’s words from his book See You at the Top, Chris illustrated the human aspect of the challenge to change, to innovate, to do things differently.
By now, most of us in the manufacturing world are familiar with the steady stream of news describing organizations, large and small, providing medical equipment using 3D printers. Face masks, face shields, swabs, and parts for ventilators are the most common—and needed—as the frontline medical community struggles to heal patients while protecting themselves. What could be simpler than to create a design, prep the data, ship it to a printer and send the finished part to a happy user or manufacturer?
It is not as simple as it sounds.
“There are literally hundreds of 3D printing designs to support the current COVID-19 response. Some work, others don’t. Some look great but do not work,” explained Dr. Jenny Chen, M.D., founder and CEO of 3DHEALS, a company focusing on education and industrial research in bioprinting, regenerative medicine, and healthcare applications using 3D printing. She was a moderator for a webinar panel titled “3D Printing Design for COVID-19,” presented April 22.
Oil company X had problems this spring. It was time for field maintenance, but company X couldn’t go ahead with it because it needed spare parts that weren’t coming anytime soon. Coronavirus-prompted lockdowns were breaking down international supply chains. Refinery Y had the same problem. It was maintenance time, and maintenance could not begin because of that same disruption to the supply chain. Refinery Y had to delay its maintenance, risking outages.
The problems of X and Y are very real and also dangerous. They also reveal one of the less pleasant aspects of the globalized economy: an overdependence on long international supply chains. But there is an alternative to these long supply chains: additive manufacturing or 3D printing.
3D printing is coming to the aid of health workers as well as the masses in providing essential items like masks and face shields.
Since its inception in the Eighties, 3D printing has found applicability in many industries. The latest is essential products. At a time when Covid-19 has brought the world to its knees, with many people struggling for essential items like masks, face shields, etc (which are in short supply), 3D printing has come to the rescue, helping create such products to aid people.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly-sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. The advantage of 3D printing is that it enables one to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods. It has been used in a diverse range of industries, including consumer products, dentistry, prosthetics, among others.
Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated the fragility of global supply chains that provide life-saving equipment including ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical facilities around the world.
3D printing has long emphasized its power to decentralize global manufacturing by manufacturing locally, but the material with which it operates is still beholden to the global supply chain.
The pro-decentralization argument in favor of additive manufacturing systems generally goes something like this: global supply chains require huge amounts of transportation. Since additive manufacturing systems 3D print products on site without expensive tooling from a 3D design file, the cost of shipping and production is reduced. CAD files are easy to reverse engineer and easy to redesign, greatly reducing time-to-market as well. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, this argument was not airtight by any means. The cost of producing certain non-essential and essential goods (including medical supplies) was still cheaper by traditional methods like injection molding and transcontinental shipping.
John Dogru, CEO of 3DPrinterOS, spoke to MPN’s editor Laura Hughes about the pivotal role of 3D printing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your organisation?
We have developed the world’s first operating system for 3D printing – 3DPrinterOS. Just like Android or Microsoft Dos solved the platform operating systems problems of the early PC and phone days, we have one platform that makes it easy to run, manage, 3D print, and run 3D printing at scale – regardless of who the manufacturer of the 3D printer is.
3D printing has many disparate systems, which we unite under one platform. Each 3D printer usually comes with its own software, and integrating all these brands onto one network is currently a nightmare for customers. This is why we developed an operating system that allows our customers to easily operate all their 3D printers and allows designers to easily print through a web browser. 3DPrinterOS’s customers run some of the largest 3D print farms in the world, allowing them to produce parts at low cost and at scale. We believe we’ve made it so easy, an eight year old could use it.
How are you helping with the Covid-19 pandemic?
We gave access to our network of over 35,000+ printers, and allowed our customers to share their 3D printers with anyone in the world to produce local face shields and masks needed in hospitals and local communities.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of our publisher, the industry sourcing company DirectIndustry, we are celebrating 20 years of industrial innovations by giving the floor to the players that brought these innovations to life. In this interview, we focus on 3D printing.Eric Bredin, VP Marketing, Stratasys, EMEA, gives his insights into 20 years of innovations in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology.
DirectIndustry magazine: 30 years ago, you went into an industrial sector, 3D printing, that was unoccupied: why and how?
Erin Bredin: Thirty years ago, Stratasys saw the potential 3D printing could bring to the manufacturing world and has since developed its Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology to fit production needs of various industries. FDM offered manufacturers a tool that was lacking until then – the ability to produce small series or customized parts in-house quickly and cost-effectively. Today, many manufacturers see 3D printing – or additive manufacturing – as a staple part of the industrial production floor, replacing certain conventional manufacturing technologies or offering a complementary tool for production.
In the span of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended life around the world, and its impact grows more severe with each passing day. The swiftness and pervasiveness of the disruption is unparalleled in modern history, as entire economies grind to a halt in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Societies have been forced to quickly adapt to the disruption, in many cases turning to technologies that have long been hailed for disruptive potential of their own.
In the supply chain, additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, is finally having its moment.
Across industries, supply chains have been hit hard as factories shut down or limit production. However, none has been strained more than the medical supply chain, as demand soars for protective equipment like masks and gloves, as well as for critical life-saving equipment such as ventilators. Hospitals will likely soon be overwhelmed, with capacity and supplies pushed to their limits. In the face of this unprecedented challenge, additive manufacturing has stepped in to fill the gap.
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.
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.