The COVID-19 pandemic caused severe disruption to global supply chains and had a particular effect on the availability of essential medical and protective equipment. The 3D printing industry rushed to respond to these shortages by pivoting to the manufacture of personal protective equipment, face shields, ventilator parts and nasal swabs. Limbitless Solutions transitioned from making prosthetic arms to producing face shields during equipment shortages as well as working on a design for a 3D printed ventilator. Formlabs used its 3D printers to manufacture nasal swabs for COVID-19 testing kits while Copper3d released open source plans for a 3D printable N-95 respirator.
As a result of the disruption caused by the pandemic, many businesses are re-evaluating their supply chain and manufacturing operations. 3D printing can shorten the supply chain by allowing parts to be printed as needed which eliminates delivery wait times as well as the need to manage an inventory of spare parts. Analysts predict that a growing number of industries will move towards 3D printing in the future as a result of the improved flexibility, lower cost and rapid turnaround times it can offer.
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