How Has COVID-19 Impacted the 3D Printing Sector?

27 Aug 2020
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How Has COVID-19 Impacted the 3D Printing Sector?

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In addition to its impact on public health, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major economic and supply chain disruptions throughout the world. It is also expected to transform consumer demand in the long term, with a greater demand for automation and digital services coming to the forefront.

As we’ve witnessed recently, 3D printing technology has played an intriguing role in the battle against the spread of the virus. Through its inherent speed and innovation, 3D printing has been used in multiple areas to create vital parts and pieces for the healthcare sector, as well as help to alleviate the impact of damaged supply chains.

The need for fast action is still crucial today, and there’s no doubt that 3D printing, when used effectively, can have a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19.

What Makes 3D Printing So Great?

Speed and accuracy are at the heart of 3D printing’s major benefits. Using the latest 3D printing technology like what we do at London3D Printing, it’s possible to design, prototype and produce in large quantities in very short periods of time. This can help to get equipment and parts to where it’s needed faster. And when we’re talking about essential medical equipment, this can even save lives.

Rather than taking months or even years to develop a robust production and manufacturing process, 3D printing can complete projects in a matter of weeks, if not days. Obviously there are many complexities and costs associated with getting this right, but the fundamentals of 3D printing set the field for easier access to engineered parts that would have otherwise taken much longer to develop.

Supply Chains and 3D Printing

Many of the world’s industries and markets rely on complex supply chains. For example, China is largely considered to be the factory of the world and manufactures a huge quantity of electronic parts that get shipped to the rest of the world. In fact, it’s completely normal that complex machinery and equipment is pieced together from items made in various different parts of the world before it is finally assembled.

What we’ve seen recently however, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a huge disruption in global supply chains. This has had a massive effect on many businesses, making it much harder for certain items to be produced.

Today, supply chain issues and overwhelming demand are what is driving the need for 3D printing solutions. Why? Because with 3D printing technology, it is much easier to develop the parts you need quickly, therefore reducing the impact of short-term supply gaps.

What Can 3D Printing Make?

In a sense, there’s not much 3D printing services can’t produce. Recently, here at London3D Printing we have used the technology to create respirator masks, ventilator parts and standard protective face shields for medical staff. Ultimately, 3D printing has been used as a tool for creatively finding solutions to the huge challenges we’re now facing.

As we navigate the COVID-19 outbreak, 3D printing is a vital tool in creatively overcoming the various shortages we encounter and the need for new, engineered parts that can help to reduce the spread of the virus. Whether it’s supporting disrupted supply chains or quickly developing hospital equipment, it has offered us significant value in recent months and the potential for future innovations is huge.

Will Additive Manufacturing be Adopted Further?

For a while, we have been witnessing the impact of new technology affecting the manufacturing industry. Additive Manufacturing, another way to describe 3D printing, provides the most efficient way to meet companies’ needs when it comes to spare parts and components required for their operations. This alone makes it inevitable for more companies and industries to integrate additive manufacturing into their systems.

As organisations review their supply chains, we are seeing more emphasis on localization of suppliers, meaning the idea of investing in local 3D printing equipment and services is quickly becoming favourable to outsourcing manufacturing to other parts of the world like China.

Almost everyday, companies are finding new ways to incorporate new technology into their production, including 3D printing technology. While the overall volume of parts being printed is still modest compared to traditional manufacturing, recent trends suggest that the usage of 3D printing is only set to increase.

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