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Another Supply Chain Collapse

April 3, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 13:56

By Noah Mostow and Terry Wohlers

The five-day block of the Suez Canal underscores the instability of our global supply chains. Nearly everything around us requires global connections. The canal is a critical route for products from Asia to Europe and the east coast of the U.S. With it closed, millions of consumer goods were blocked. The alternative is to transport them around the southern tip of Africa, which is a dramatically further. Fortunately, as you may know, the ship was freed and the passage cleared, but it could have been delayed much longer.

Like the pandemic, the blocked canal exposed a problem with our supply chains. Additive manufacturing (AM) is not a perfect solution for all types of parts, but it provides a quick and agile manufacturing process. Both have been discussed in length, so we want to share an idea of what the future might look like.

                                              

The next time a disaster disrupts a supply chain, we can be prepared, and physical stockpiles of replacement parts may not be the answer. Instead of parts sitting on shelves and racks, the inventory is digital, coupled with machine capacity and feedstock. The designs are fully tested for 3D printing, a proactive step for any manufacturing process. The next disaster may be worse, so the future should not rely solely on smooth supply chains. We can start to prepare for this reality today.

If passed by U.S. Congress, proposed bipartisan legislation would invest $1 billion to manage a partnership involving the federal government, private industry, and state and local governments focused on the manufacture of critical products. The bill would establish an Office of Supply Chain Preparedness within the Department of Commerce. It has the support of America Makes, the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation.