Time to read: 4 min

There is no shortage of examples of additive manufacturing, or 3D Printing, helping in the fight against COVID-19. In this Bunker, we talked to executives from two of the companies on the vanguard of additive technology, who are both doing their part to address the COVID-19 crisis. Both Markforged and Carbon have quickly implemented responses to COVID-19, including 3D printing nasal swabs for testing, PPE for frontline healthcare workers, parts for medical devices, and hospital equipment.

Our guests in Bunker #7 were:

Bryan Painter, Vice President & GM of the Americas Region at Markforged. Bryan joined Markforged as employee 92 and has led the company’s go-to-market and global expansion, taking the company to over 250 employees and growing orders by 300%. 

Philip DeSimone is Chief Customer Officer at Carbon and was a part of the founding team at Carbon in 2013. He’s responsible for customer success, retention, and acquisition, as well as managing Carbon’s most strategic relationships and customers, like Ford, BMW, Adidas, and Riddell. In 2016, Philip was selected for the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, and he has been extensively quoted and featured in the media.

Before we got into the debate with these rock stars of the additive industry, here are a few headlines that caught the eye of my co-host Philip Stoten:

More consideration is being given to the post COVID-19 supply chain and manufacturing ecosystem, as people grapple with returning to some kind of “new” normal.

According to a survey of more than 300 CFOs completed by PwC this month, supply chains will diversify in the wake of the pandemic, but they will only relocate completely as a last resort. The survey found that 56% plan to find alternate and additional sourcing options in reaction to COVID-19. Other findings include a desire to increase visibility, improve digital tools for supply chain management, and to be able to better model and manage risk.

One of last week’s guests pointed out a great headline in WIRED this week that read, “As Workers Spread Out to Halt the Virus, Robots Fill the Gaps”. Social distancing requires rethinking the layout of workplaces, and a new breed of robots is helping to keep factories and warehouses running.

Those in the auto space continue to step up, the latest being Honda, which has converted part of its technical center in Ohio to make ventilators, in conjunction with Dynaflo Inc.

Let’s not forget that disruption happens all the time. In an EMS executive interview conducted this week, Philip was told that midway through the pandemic, one plant was hit by an earthquake, requiring the factory to be evacuated and then checked structurally, before operators observing social distancing could return. 

From our guests

In this episode of the Bunker, we explored the role of additive manufacturing in the current pandemic, and how its digital approach makes it ideal for rapid product development and deployment. We explored how urgent demand and supply can be matched, to ensure parts are quickly manufactured and deployed where they are most needed. We also took a look at the broader role of 3D Printing in a global manufacturing ecosystem and what has changed to drive greater deployment in multiple industries.

We started with both our guests sharing their own experiences and the fact that each of them wanted to help address the COVID-19 situation in any way they could.

Philip DeSimone explained how Carbon, led by President & CEO Ellen Kullman, quickly mobilized its manufacturing ecosystem to make PPE, with their design team pivoting from designing the company’s next printer to engineering a face shield. From there, they began printing COVID-19 testing swabs for hospitals, and within three weeks, they had hospital trials taking place and are now making more than 100,000 testing swabs per week.

Bryan Painter observed that the additive manufacturing community has really rallied to help first responders, adding that it’s a really rewarding experience. Markforged has an industrial focus, so it was a big pivot to create products for first responders. The company started with an open source face shield design for people in their network to print. Then, engineers at Marforged pivoted to come up with a COVID-19 testing swab design, partnered with Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, and iterated from design to part within 36 hours.

These are just two of many great examples of the power of additive manufacturing to move through design, multiple iterations, and on to production exceptionally quickly.

The debate moved to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption to the additive industry’s supply chain and the need to integrate a strategy that covers materials, as well as machines. Carbon benefits from using liquid chemistry, while Markforged blends its own filaments.

The panel also discussed the importance of selecting the right process for each job. Additive manufacturing has a lot to offer but will not suit every manufacturing need. Developments in materials, processes, and machines continue to make additive manufacturing competitive at increasing volumes, like 100,000, but not when millions of parts are required. 

Philip explained the importance of value creation over the simple production process. Additional value can be achieved when a part is designed for additive manufacturing and has features that cannot be produced elsewhere. He cited some great examples, like sports helmets, car seats, and products for which customization at scale is required.

Both Bryan and Philip underlined the importance of education and information in the adoption of additive manufacturing. Bryan spoke of the Markforged University launch on 2019. Philip talked about the need to educate engineers and explained the value of having design for additive in their toolbox.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from The Supply Chain Bunker Episode #7:

·       Use the right tool for the right job; that may be additive

·       You can design in one location and print anywhere

·       Price still drives decisions

·       Materials and the ecosystem are key

·       Be an additive MVP in your company; you could go from zero to hero as a result

·       Rallying cry – go team additive; great work!!