It would be wrong to say that the pandemic did not come with a warning, but we did not pay heed to the initial signs. As a result, the entire healthcare industry was thrown off balance, leading to shortages and widespread panic. To buy time, the country had to shut down, as the infections spread like wildfire. However, the nationwide lockdown imposed last year lead to several other challenges, especially in the transport, logistics, and manufacturing sectors. Essential services were open but faced difficulties in operation due to these challenges.
Then again, there was also a shortage of mainstream medical and protective equipment, like PPE kits, masks, respirators, testing devices, training kits, oxygen supplies, isolation beds, emergency dwellings, etc. Due to lack of transport facilities, these substances could not be fetched from faraway manufacturing and storage units, leading to massive confusion and panic. Small-scale manufacturers set up their units near the healthcare centers to supply medical equipment. However, the best possible help was provided by the 3D printing units. It was in the pandemic that most people learned how useful can additive manufacturing technology be in such grave situations. The fast and cost-effective alternative manufacturing process helped improve the situation by supplying much-needed protective gear in abundance.
How did 3D printing help the COVID warriors during the first wave?
From 3D-printed masks and respirators to testing kits and even emergency isolation facilities for the COVID-19 patients, the technology helped get over the shortage rather quickly. But the striking fact here is most of these materials were provided by small-scale additive manufacturers, who set up shops near healthcare and related centers, or at home, to help the COVID warriors with a regular supply of equipment. In protective equipment, 3D printing helped supply mask fitters, adjustors, emergency respirators, filters, face shields, PPE kits in sufficient amounts to protect the COVID-19 warriors, as well as the general public. This is not all. The technology also helped healthcare centers increase their supply of testing devices, training models, sanitization equipment, and more. As the 3D printed goods can be supplied directly to the centers, without needing any processing or storage, these were available more readily. It also lowered the costs of such equipment.
Is the 3D printed medical equipment safe for use?
When things get easily available, the question arises about its safety, or to be precise, efficiency. So, many people wonder if the 3D printed masks, respirators, and PPE kits are at all safe to be used against the virus. To them, we will say one thing. The FDA has facilitated the use of 3D printed protective gear, on the condition that it adheres to a certain standard and follows the guidelines meted out by them. It has, however, given the emergency use authorization to the healthcare centers if they face a shortage.
If small manufacturers or startups adopt additive manufacturing technology on a wider scale, discrepancies and issues can further be minimized, thus resulting in materials with higher efficiency. Further, the supply can then stay constant, no matter the demand. As we are facing a second wave of pandemic, it is high time startups should consider adopting the technology to up their manufacturing game.
The benefits of 3D printing beyond healthcare
The pandemic has not only saturated the healthcare industry but others as well. The transport sector is suffering huge losses, because of the year-long lockdown and people’s hesitance to use public transport systems. Next is the aviation industry, which too experienced immense loss during the lockdown last year. The auto industry is still running at a loss. According to market researchers, it will be a tad difficult for the industry to get back to the pre-COVID levels before 2023. Now coming to the manufacturing industry, it is trying hard to restore normalcy and recoup the losses.
All these sectors can benefit from this emerging technology if they are willing to make the best use of it. Additive manufacturing can ease their problems, if not solve those completely. Let us talk about it in detail:
With 3D printing, you can manufacture spare parts in a few hours. If the printer is of supreme quality, the resultant product will be usable, durable, and highly efficient. There will be no need to buy spare parts of components of manufacturing equipment, and a lot of resources can be saved. One can invest those resources in extending the chain of production. Further, small goods can also be manufactured with 3D printing way faster than conventional methods. You can supply those goods to multiple businesses to help them get on their feet in a crisis. It can be an additional service to the industry.
For example, you can manufacture spare components and sell them to other businesses in need. It will increase your bottom line, as well as help those businesses save some resources of their own. You will also free up a lot of storage space and reduce the need for inventories, as 3D printing doesn’t need any of that. Advanced printers can print materials on-demand and meet deadlines easily.
Some parts are preferred to be 3D printed, because of their lightweight properties. In the automotive and aerospace industries, these lightweight 3D printed components are preferred more than their metal counterparts because of obvious reasons. Yes, they offer ease of mobility and increases fuel efficiency besides other benefits like cost reduction.
Design and customization benefits
With 3D printing, one can create complex geometries and customize the components to the T. It also reduces the supply chain steps and the need for manpower. Digital files can be fed into the printer, which then prints these materials quite fast without needing additional resources. In the automobile industry, prototypes can be developed easily and conveniently with additive manufacturing technology. Besides, one can even go the extra mile to develop brand new cars with the technology.
Another major benefit of 3D printing for the auto industry is the development of replacement parts. It is a pain to mass manufacture these parts, which need to be bought and stored in bulk, leading to additional costs. With advanced 3D printers in the market, one can create these parts as and when they are required, creating shorter supply chains and lowering the costs of maintenance and management.
What is in it for the startups?
If the startups begin adopting this technology at a wide scale, several companies in these sectors can benefit from their endeavors. They will not have to spend a fortune in getting spare and replacement parts, while boosting the bottom line of these third-party 3D printing companies. Are you wondering how? Scroll on!
The new businesses almost always suffer from cash crunch. 3D printing can help lower their investment requirements by producing spare and replacement parts of important machinery without additional costs. All you have to do is buy an advanced printer that will help produce high-quality components faster than getting them transported in bulk from a mass manufacturing unit. You can also create functional prototypes within a few hours, which may otherwise take a lot of investment through third-party manufacturers.
If you are a product-based company, you have to adapt to the customization needs of your target niche. Customization is a popular trend, and it is unwise to ignore it for the sake of your business. 3D printing offers the designers scope to customize their products in a way no other manufacturing process does. You can even opt for end-to-end customization through additive manufacturing. It is one of the biggest benefits of the technology, as it helps meet every need of your customers.
Conventional manufacturing processes do not allow single-piece manufacture of components or prototypes. You have to order in bulk, which is both time and cost-intensive. However, 3D printing eliminates such issues, as you can produce the exact number of pieces you need, not more and not even less. If you need a single piece, you can 3D print the same, without any inhibitions.
The 3D printed products look appealing, and at times, even better than the original product. You can process them after, color, or dye the materials to make them more visually appealing. You can even give them a matte or glossy finish, depending on your aesthetic requirements and preferences. And you can do it all without spending a fortune.
How can increased 3D printing adoption help in the pandemic?
If and when the startups come forward to adopt 3D printing on a large scale, businesses will slowly recover from the crisis they are in at present. Cost-effective manufacturing will take the front seat, which other benefits, like increased customization and faster production will lead the businesses to meet the ongoing demands. Further, the companies can also help other industries benefit from their additive manufacturing endeavors by supplying spare parts and components on the go. All in all, it will be a sci-fi movie that comes true for the entire manufacturing sector.
How Additive Accelerator can help
At Additive Accelerator, our expert team is always at your back to help you execute any 3D printing endeavor successfully. We are experienced in this field and can tailor the right solutions for your business. If you do not have much knowledge of the 3D printing market, we are here to give you a deeper insight, so that you can adopt the technology faster and take your business to new levels. Are you keen to start a new 3D printing business from scratch? Well, we are here to offer all the details of the right machinery, solutions, and technologies according to your specific business requirements.
Give us a call. Let’s connect today!