While additive manufacturing has been trending toward mass adoption for some time, the global pandemic has accelerated this momentum. Here are three ways how metal 3D printing has defined manufacturing this year. Article by Richard Elving, Markforged.
While 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, advancements in technology and the unprecedented supply chain disruption due to COVID-19 have driven more mainstream adoption throughout 2020. While the pandemic has wreaked havoc on global business, causing shutdowns and spikes in demand, we’ve also heard positive stories of true innovation from businesses across the manufacturing sector.
Markforged’s inaugural annual COVID-19 Impact on Supply Chains: Global Additive Manufacturing Industry Report found that modern manufacturers—or, those who adopt digital manufacturing solutions such as 3D printing—were the most resilient during the pandemic, reporting that they’ve been operating “business as usual,” while other manufacturers scaled production back.
Based on research conducted with our global customer base and the wider industry, the report notes that almost one quarter (24 percent) of our customer respondents said they had begun producing new products during the pandemic, and 45 percent stated that “nothing has changed, it’s business as usual.” With 28 percent of customer respondents noting that they are now using 3D printing more compared to pre-pandemic usage, it’s clear that 2020 has been a year that we will look back upon as an inflection point for additive technologies.
While additive manufacturing has been trending toward mass adoption for some time, the global pandemic has accelerated this momentum. Here are three ways we’ve seen metal 3D printing define manufacturing this year.
Identifying Solutions to Supply Chain Delays
In March and April of 2020, we saw supply chains across the globe break. Whether it was from unpredictable supply and demand patterns, unreliable suppliers or broken line parts that could not be traditionally replaced, the manufacturing industry was devastated. As international supply chains continue to strain while we continually battle the virus, manufacturers want more control over their supply chains.
But, by turning to the flexible solutions offered by 3D printing, manufacturers were able to rapidly engineer robust solutions and simplify their logistics. By leveraging printers to solve their supply chain problems, manufacturers were able to remain resilient in the face of unprecedented difficulties.
One of Markforged’s customers, an orthopaedics business, was one organisation that was able to streamline its manufacturing processes with the help of an industrial 3D printer. Extended waiting times for a specific medical grade raw material casting forced this business to explore all of the options available to them–including the printer they were already using to print tooling jigs and fixtures. They printed a duplicate of the raw cast part they were waiting for and were able to perform full test runs of their manufacturing process.
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