Manufacturers Are Taking a Second Look at this Technology
Earlier this year, Fehrmann CEO Henning Fehrmann told Manufacturing Best Practices that 3-D printing has allowed manufacturers to reduce the complexity of the supply chain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of manufacturers revamped their factories to help make critically-needed medical supplies and Fehrmann was right — 3-D printing came to the rescue of many.
When the coronavirus hit the United States, 3-D printers were directly involved in making face shields, face masks, swabs and ventilator components. They also drove development of completely new ventilator designs, said Ben Johnson, director of procurement development, healthcare for 3D Systems.
“We saw very early on in northern Italy the lack of medical capacity to deal with the effects,” Johnson told Forbes. “We had our partner there printing valves and splitters to allow the use of a single ventilator for multiple patients.”
3-D printing or additive manufacturing had already been gaining some traction with the percentage of companies using the technology doubling between 2016 and 2019, from 4% to 8%, according to an Ernst & Young study. Ferdie Bruijnen, vice president of supply chain operations at 3D Systems, told Forbes that COVID-19 highlighted some important benefits to the technology. For example, “it requires no tooling, it can handle complex geometries and that it provides a naturally distributed manufacturing base.”
The additive manufacturing market is expected to reach $22 billion, according to Formlabs. While the cost of 3-D printers can be a deterrent for manufacturers today, Fehrmann predicts a big decrease in cost over the next 10 years, which he said will extend the use of 3-D printing.
Now that 3-D printing has shown its worth to manufacturers throughout the country, industry experts expect to see the scales tip towards additive manufacturing for final production.