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.
Clothes shopping can be frustrating for people with uncommon shapes or understocked sizes; you rarely find what you want, and when you do, it rarely fits 100 percent comfortably. 3D printing may change the nature of the retail experience for that group — and for retailers who can’t always predict what their customers want.
“A lot of people are passionate about this tech,” says Fatma Baytar, an assistant professor in Cornell University’s department of fiber science and apparel design. “People are trying different ways to make it user friendly. It’s a neat idea.”
With a focus on digitization and Industry 4.0, 3D Printing Industry sought to learn more on how such technologies work with additive manufacturing, by attending the IN(3D)USTRY talk “Printing Farms & Smart Factories.”
The following includes some of the insights made by Pedro Mier, Adviser and Member of the Board of Directors at Premo Group, Ignacio Artola Guardiola, Managing Director at Accenture, Ramón Paricio Hernández, Production Manager at SEAT, and Ramón Pastor, Vice President and General Manager of HP’s Large Format Printing.
From where you order or manufacture your parts, to how they’re batched and priced, additive
3D printing has been used for prototyping for decades, but now it’s starting to creep into production process too. Even if you’re not printing things yourself, that change is going to have implications for your supply chain management.
What’s different about 3D printing and other additive manufacturing processes
When you think about 3D printing, you might visualize a filament of molten plastic being squirted, toothpaste-like, out of a nozzle, building up an object layer by layer as it solidifies.
Technically, that approach is termed fused deposition modeling but more generally we might talk of additive manufacturing, in which the layers can also be built up by fusing powdered metal or plastic (selective laser sintering) or solidifying a liquid using ultraviolet light (stereolithography or continuous liquid interface production), then lifting the finished object out of the unused powder or liquid.
The promise of 3D printing has been in the background of manufacturing conversations for years. This technology’s potential to let companies create items on demand, with minimal factory equipment and an extreme degree of customization, has kept it relevant as the necessary hardware and software have improved. The fact that there hasn’t yet been a massive supply chain disruption due to 3D printing may be leading some companies to write it off. Leaders should keep their eyes open, however – further development could change the geography of manufacturing.
The use of 3D printing as a prototyping system, a behind-the-scenes option for product development, has kept it in the manufacturing ecosystem. Learning to produce finished goods with the same speed and ease currently used for in-development items could be the turning point for 3D printing’s impact and ubiquity. Examining the marketplace
Current supply chain practices such as producing a high volume of goods in financially efficient factories and shipping them en masse may become less useful in the era of widespread 3D printing. The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply recently examined both the transformative potential of 3D printing and the reasons why the technology hasn’t yet had such an impact, despite being known and available for years.
If you think printing is just putting ink on paper, the fast-moving train of technology has left you behind. Since the advent of printing, beginning with Johannes Gutenberg inventing the first printing press, printing technology has been growing at an astonishing rate. Recently, it has given birth to the new kid on the block, whom everyone is talking about: 3D printing.
Innovators are testing the waters with this new technology. And this revolutionary manufacturing process, considered impossible just a few years ago, has exceeded our expectations. It produced spectacular results spanning different industries, pushing them in new directions.
Here are four ways 3D printing is shaping technology in 2017.
The latest announcement from SAP reinforces the role of 3D printing in the future of manufacturing. This week at Hannover Messe, the software company unveiled SAP Distributed Manufacturing, a new application that provides a cloud-based scalable process for manufacturers of all sizes. It is a collaborative business network that enables manufacturers to work with a variety of 3D printing companies, service and material providers and OEMs.