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Harnessing the Power of Additive Manufacturing: A Call for Increased Investment to Tackle Supply Chain Challenges

In today's interconnected world, supply chain disruptions have become a pervasive and impactful challenge, impacting businesses and customers. From delays in product delivery to difficulties in finding specific items and changes in product quality, these disruptions have left a lasting impact on industries and the consumers they serve. At Markforged, we’re strong believers in the untapped potential of additive manufacturing and its role in aiding production at the point of need to strengthen supply chains.

While we’ve seen an uptick in manufacturers adopting our technologies, we were curious about the general public’s perceptions about the state of supply chains and potential of additive manufacturing. To gain these insights, we collaborated with Dynata to conduct a comprehensive survey of 1,000 U.S. adult participants. The survey results serve as a compelling call for increased investment in 3D printing technology to ease pressing supply chain challenges manufacturers face today. Below are some of the key findings.

Navigating the Manufacturing Maze: Addressing Supply Chain Disruptions

Manufacturers face an uphill battle regarding supply chain disruptions, contending with significant threats to their operations. Global shortages and the arduous task of procuring vital components have resulted in prolonged production downtime and compromised deadlines. The repercussions are far-reaching, encompassing missed business opportunities, stunted growth, and potential damage to reputation. The traditional supply chain model, reliant on external suppliers and shipping services, is inherently vulnerable to disruptions, leading to extended lead times, unreliable timelines, and compromised product quality upon delivery.

The invaluable insights garnered from our survey shed light on the perceptions and experiences of respondents concerning supply chain challenges, as well as the potential of additive manufacturing, specifically 3D printing, in addressing these issues. More than half of the respondents have encountered frustrating delays in product delivery, underscoring the adverse effects of supply chain disruptions on customer experiences.

As disruptive supply chains continue to impact production, consumers are increasingly feeling the effects. In fact, a notable 53% of respondents reported experiencing difficulty finding specific products in store or online due to supply chain issues. These findings highlight the pervasive nature of supply chain challenges, affecting both product availability and timely delivery.

The Untapped Potential of Additive Manufacturing

Survey data reveals a growing recognition among respondents of the potential of 3D printing in addressing supply chain challenges. Nearly one-third of respondents are already familiar with the benefits and capabilities of 3D printing in mitigating disruptions. This increasing awareness reflects a broader understanding of the remarkable advantages that 3D printing brings to supply chains.

When supply chain disruptions occur, causing a shortage of tools and parts needed for manufacturing it can bring factory production to a halt, even with just a single part missing. AM offers solutions to alleviate these pain points as an insurance policy against acute hiccups while reducing reliance on suppliers. Broken or missing parts required for manufacturing can be quickly printed within a matter of days, ensuring uninterrupted factory operations. Additionally, designs for parts can be stored digitally and sent to on-site printers, enabling them to arrive precisely at the point of need without additional wait times and shipping costs. This contrasts with the longer, drawn-out process of traditional manufacturing, which involves creating tooling, months-long lead times, and costly fabrication for low-volume parts.

The maturation of additive manufacturing technologies has even led highly-regulated industries like aerospace or healthcare to incorporate 3D printing for creating end-use parts and streamlining production processes. This integration results in increased cost savings and reduced reliance on increasingly fragile global supply chains. Such transformative potential is recognized by 43% of respondents who view 3D printing as a long-term solution for supply chain challenges.

In light of these findings, it is particularly interesting to note that a significant majority of respondents—68%—acknowledge the crucial role of onshoring in alleviating supply chain issues. This sentiment highlights the need to explore alternative strategies and bring production closer to the point of consumption, hence additive manufacturing. The endorsement of onshoring by almost seven in ten U.S. consumers highlights the importance of diversifying approaches to ease the strain on supply chains. By leveraging the transformative potential of 3D printing and embracing onshoring strategies, we can create more resilient and efficient supply chains, allowing us to navigate disruptions with confidence.

The Promise of Additive Manufacturing and Its Investment

In May 2022, the Biden administration launched the Additive Manufacturing Forward program, recognizing the potential of advanced additive manufacturing technologies to strengthen supply chains, combat inflation, and promote Industry 4.0 adoption among smaller domestic manufacturers. AM Forward aims to break down barriers to additive manufacturing adoption and build robust and efficient supply chains. Markforged anticipates increased use of additive manufacturing, leading to heightened demand for additively manufactured parts and enabling manufacturers to leverage 3D printing benefits.

At the individual manufacturer level, in-house 3D printing provides an excellent solution to acute supply chain challenges. It offers shorter lead times, cost savings, reduced uncertainty, faster product development cycles, and greater self-sufficiency without relying heavily on external suppliers.

On a broader scale, the widespread adoption of AM among manufacturing suppliers holds promise for overcoming the longstanding supply chain woes affecting manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers worldwide. While AM Forward focuses on U.S. manufacturers, it can serve as a blueprint for solving global manufacturing supply chain shortages if successful.

Investment in 3D printing technology is crucial. Most survey respondents (56%) believe governments and businesses should allocate more resources to address supply chain issues. Careful evaluation and understanding of the potential benefits of 3D printing technology are essential. Concurrently, a large portion of Americans (53%) believe insufficient actions have been taken since the pandemic to onshore production and alleviate future supply chain disruptions. These findings underscore the urgent need for decisive and comprehensive steps to fortify global supply chains against unforeseen troubles.

Embracing the Power of Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, offers a transformative solution to supply chain challenges. The survey data emphasizes the need for increased investment in 3D printing technology to strengthen supply chains and address disruptions effectively. To tackle these challenges, we urge industry leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders to prioritize investment in 3D printing technology. We can create resilient and efficient manufacturing ecosystems by allocating resources, fostering adoption, and embracing the benefits of additive manufacturing. Additionally, steps should be taken to onshore production, reduce reliance on external suppliers, and diversify approaches.

Manufacturers can navigate supply chain disruptions more effectively by reducing barriers, fostering adoption, and leveraging the benefits of 3D printing. As investment and awareness increase and governments and businesses prioritize strengthening supply chains, a future of resilient and efficient global manufacturing awaits. It is time to seize the opportunities presented by additive manufacturing and fortify our supply chains for a more secure and prosperous future. In a world plagued by recurring supply chain disruptions, additive manufacturing offers hope. By increasing awareness, committing to onshoring, and understanding the capabilities of 3D printing, we can usher in a new era of resilient and efficient supply chains, revolutionizing how we navigate these challenges.

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