A Resilient Supply Chain Through 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, offers a unique solution to diversifying the modern supply chain, which due to Covid-19 is a much-needed resource.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, offers a unique solution to diversifying the modern supply chain, which due to Covid-19 is a much-needed resource, according to a recent Webinar by HP.

Additive manufacturing offers a unique solution to diversifying the modern supply chain.
Additive manufacturing offers a unique solution to diversifying the modern supply chain.

The resiliency of global supply chains has been in the spotlight due to Covid-19 and with it 3D printing. Governments and healthcare authorities that are equipped have been able to print vital personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to protect doctors, nurses and those at the frontline.


However, many hospitals and healthcare authorities throughout the world have been overwhelmed by the number of sick people requiring ventilation, putting doctors in the position of deciding who lives and who dies due to the lack of life-saving equipment.

These scenarios have shocked the public and governments alike, with global supply chains and local production capacity put in the spotlight.

What lessons will be learned? Well for one, supply chains look set to change post-Covid-19, with countries opting to build up their local production capacity for life-saving equipment. We can also expect innovation to accelerate as more investment looks set to be assigned to critical technologies necessary for increased productivity at home, such as 3D printing.

However, there are misconceptions about 3D printing, which still exist. “3D printing has been mostly associated with concept prototyping up until now,” said Edward Davis, director of 3D strategy, chief technologist office, HP Inc, in a recent HP webinar titled, “HP 3D Printing: How Additive Manufacturing Is Solving Supply Chain Disruptions”

This is partly because “3D processes do not meet the consistency for accuracy and mechanical properties that are necessary” said Davis, “for more large-scale production.”

However, as Davis alluded to, such applications is where the money is and would greatly assist supply chain resiliency in the process. Applications such as hybrid push/pull supply chains, which optimise financials by using both analogue and digital processes concurrently, or custom and/or high-value manufacturing, where each part can be slightly different or the design can only be economical with 3D.

Resilience Through Hybrid Supply Chains

“Right now we are having supply chain disruptions due to Covid-19,” said Davis. “Our team in  Barcelona met with doctors, one Saturday afternoon and iterated five times by the end of the week.”

“We developed and validated the specs and we started to print for local hospitals across Barcelona,” said Davis, “and subsequently “uploaded the design to the web.”

“One week later,” said Davis, “we had several customers printing around the world our design.” This shows the advantages of 3D printing to bolster supply chains, within one week, completing development and validation with immediate distribution due to it being digital.

“This is what we mean by resilient supply chains,” said Davis.

As Davis sees it, 3D printing is not going to replace injection moulding, which still has its advantages, but instead to complement it.

“If you have a need for higher-value parts or customer parts, or to bolster supply chains, then this is when you would use 3D printing,” Davis added.

The Future

A lot has been said about megatrends, which guide the direction of technological development, such as rapid urbanisation, changing demographics, hyper globalisation, and accelerated innovation.

In 3D printing, developing voxel-level control that enables a 3D printer to control the material deposited in each and every voxel, greatly increases the flexibility and production capacity of 3D printings.

A unique feature of HP’s own Multi Jet Fusion technology is its capability to control the properties of each voxel providing capabilities to define the physical characteristics of an object point-by-point.

Click here to learn more from this webinar.

Click here for more details on HP Multi Jet Fusion Technology.

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