A conversation in industrial 3D printing proved revealing as to the place of this advanced manufacturing technology in crisis and beyond.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of moderating a conversation with EOS North America. The webinar, “COVID-19: A Tipping Point for Additive Manufacturing,” had over 300 attendees join us live for a lively discussion examining the current pandemic and conditions beyond.
Speaking to the topics at hand and fielding dozens of questions from a highly engaged audience were Laura Gilmour, Global Medical Business Development Manager at EOS North America, and Dr. Gregory Hayes, the Senior Vice President of Applied Technology at EOS North America.
The webinar, available now on-demand, leveraged both Gilmour and Hayes’ expertise in, respectively, medical and supply chain aspects of additive manufacturing.
Gilmour drew from her substantial background in the medical device business, including four years at EOS, 15 years as a biomedical R&D engineer, and US FDA pre-market reviewer for orthopedic devices. Hayes brought his background in strategic technology development, including strengths in the high-tech, health-tech, and aerospace market, as well as expertise in materials science and engineering.
Additive Manufacturing in COVID-19
EOS is one of the market leaders in industrial 3D printing, and speaking with Gilmour and Hayes was a genuine pleasure to dig into their expertise for a practical conversation about additive manufacturing and where it fits in during this pandemic, as well as in future disruptions.
Practicality is a critical concern, and both Gilmour and Hayes offered realistic and grounded views of exactly how 3D printing can responsibly and reliably be brought to bear in the fight against the spread of pandemic.
Keeping with that practicality, they also both looked beyond this current crisis — this “new normal” we’re all experiencing right now is not forever, and there will be some “after.” However, there will also be future crises of different shapes, and it’s important to take all lessons learned now to heart, ready to be applied again as needed.
Overall, we looked to address some big issues:
In the wake of COVID-19, the manufacturing industry has been turned upside down. In a world of fixed supply chains and complex logistics, the mega factories we rely on are receiving a beat down. Manufacturing is not a cure for COVID-19, but with the shortages of basic medical products like personal protective equipment (PPE) and respirators, it’s clear that manufacturing is an important cog in the machine needed to battle the virus. While we deal with our current crisis, it’s time to get real about where industrial 3D printing fits into the manufacturing ecosystem.
Some of the initial questions Gilmour and Hayes addressed to shape the conversation included:
The time to rethink is now, as 3D printing has come to the forefront of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. What aspects of industrial 3D printing are making the technology so appealing in confronting the current crisis?
We see the trend in people using additive manufacturing steadily increasing over the last several years, and current events as a catalyst or tipping point to get people using the technology in a better way. From a supply chain perspective, how can 3D printing be used in developing solutions in the current crisis? What about for future business operations?
Medical device manufacturing is an industry typically requiring significant oversight. In these unusual circumstances, how do safety and efficacy standards relate to need-it-now concerns where the speed of 3D printing is a primary factor for its use? How does the concept of the digital warehouse come into play for additive manufacturing in the medical space?
This will not be the last crisis the world — or manufacturing — faces. While we don’t have a crystal ball to look into, what lessons can the response to COVID-19 provide for future response? What is the place of additive manufacturing going to look like as we go forward from here?
Added to these were queries submitted prior to and during the live webinar, as engaged attendees sought realistic answers to very real questions. While the one-hour webinar didn’t leave us time to address every one of the dozens of questions sent in, certain themes arose among the queries.
Gilmour and Hayes spoke to topics ranging from the comparison of additive manufacturing and traditional technologies when it comes to price and logistics of response; the applicability of different 3D printing technologies in the current crisis; the rise of interest in digital inventories / digital warehouses; regulatory and IP considerations for the manufacture of medical devices; and much more.
Overall, they agreed that additive manufacturing is seeing increased usefulness and a commensurate rise in profile during the time of COVID-19 — and that such trends and scrutiny will continue during and after this pandemic.
If you weren’t able to tune in live yesterday, the webinar is available on-demand now here.