Necessity often spurs innovation. In the case of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, necessity has ushered in unprecedented learning about 3D printing and additive manufacturing.
3D printing has been around for a while now, but it’s never been vetted quite like it has since the beginning of the COVID situation. Through rapid changes, workforce reductions, and lockdown scenarios, 3D printers for manufacturers have been put to the test in recent months.
We’ve learned exactly how helpful additive manufacturing (the process of 3D printing end products) can be, and so much more. In this post, we’re diving into four vital things this ever-evolving global pandemic has taught us about 3D printing.
Coronavirus and 3D Printers for Manufacturers: 4 Key Lessons Learned
Under normal circumstances, the additive process and 3D printers for manufacturers make sweeping, positive changes. And yes, even during the COVID crisis, the benefits are being felt across the board.
Some of the things we’ve learned about 3D printing have been truly surprising. Though not necessarily positive or negative, the following four lessons have been brought forward through recent trials. 3D printing has been thrust into the spotlight again under extraordinary global circumstances, which has resulted in unmatched learning opportunities.
1. Standardization (or Lack Thereof) Challenges
In typical business practices, 3D printing would only be used for products that have been specifically vetted for the additive process.
However, in the ever-changing manufacturing landscape post-COVID, companies are facing an unparalleled workforce and other challenges. Many are looking to the automated, machine-driven additive process to solve their woes.
What this has shown us, though, is that product, design, and process standardization is lacking in many instances. This is particularly a challenge when it comes to producing healthcare products—which we all know have been in extreme demand unlike ever before.
When mass-producing highly regulated items (like those for medical use) using an automated 3D printing process, a highly standardized approach is needed every step of the way. If this is not already in place, challenges will arise.
Here’s a shameless plug—DesignPoint is an expert at assisting in this very area. Before we began to explore and educate our customers about additive, we spent all of our time on the design and engineering side. Now, we work with both areas and multiple departments to ensure seamless collaboration from design to production (engineers to manufacturing). If you want to learn more on how we do this, contact us today. Otherwise, we’ll get off this tangent and look at lesson number two.
2. Patents, Certifications, and Intellectual Property Concerns
From needing accelerated certification processes to patent and intellectual property (IP) concerns, COVID-19 has taught us that 3D printing may not yet run smoothly in emergency situations. Especially when it comes to notoriously long processes, like certification for medical supplies and patent applications.
It’s been clear that these processes must be shortened in times of crisis to be more accommodating, whether we’re using 3D printing or not. It has become especially apparent when using new technology and processes to mass-produce necessary items under extreme conditions.
3. High-Volume Manufacturing Wins
One thing we have alluded to already is that there are significant benefits to 3D printing. This becomes even more evident in a virus-stricken world where lockdown is the norm, and human beings cannot be within 6 feet of each other. This renders many traditional manufacturing assembly lines out of the question.
Enter 3D printers for manufacturers! Fewer human facilitators are required, but the process is more automated and perfect for high-volumetric production. When mass quantities of the medical supplies are needed immediately, and humans are safe at home, 3D printing is really worth it. Here at DesignPoint, we experienced this first-hand as we began to 3D print PPE equipment. We were blown away by the volume we were able to produce.
4. Additive Manufacturing’s Limitations
While 3D printing is massively beneficial in times like these, it’s also clearer than ever that the additive process isn’t the end-all solution. At least, not quite yet. Human expertise and traditional manufacturing are still needed to produce complex products (again, particularly those of a medical nature) that are required going forward. We believe additive manufacturing is a fantastic means to support production, not necessarily replace it.
Though it may not yet be a cure-all, 3D printing and our understanding of the process is perhaps more realistic than ever. This is a very positive jumping-off point for the future of additive manufacturing!
DesignPoint: Your Provider for Top 3D Printers for Manufacturers
As you read this article, you probably realized that 3D printers for manufacturers create positive impacts across the board—supporting production during a critical time.
Are you ready to revolutionize your business? Fill out the contact form below so we can give you a free consultation for your additive strategy! DesignPoint helps you transform your business’s present and future, through good times and bad times.