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How 3D printing is helping when Coronavirus Pandemic has disrupted Supply Chain


Featuring CoBA faculty member Dr. Nima Zaerpour 

On March 25th, 2020, HP announced that it plans to utilize thousands of 3D printers to fight Covid-19. You might have seen this and dozens of other news headlines on how 3D printing and additive manufacturing is being used to produce equipment –mask, ventilator parts, or even hand-free door openers- needed help hospitals to slow the spread of virus and treat patients. According to Dr. Nima Zaerpour, Assistant professor of Supply Chain Management at College of Business Administration, California State University San Marcos, this pandemic is probably going to result in a shift from global to local supply chain and will speed up the adoption of 3D printing to localize manufacturing. Even, in a disaster such as Coronavirus Pandemic where the supply chain is impacted, the importance of localized manufacturing to treat the patients with life-threating illnesses such as cardiac surgeries becomes more apparent. Dr. Zaerpour, has studied supply chain and logistics in the last 10 years, and in particular, in his research he has focused on how the innovations and advancement in supply chain and warehousing, such as robotics, automation and 3D printing can be efficiently integrated in current supply chain systems.

In one of his projects, he has collaborated with healthcare, automotive/aerospace, and consumer goods industries to understand the main impacts of 3D printing on supply chain design and identify the necessary conditions to rapidly expand the use of 3D printing and additive manufacturing. According to his study, these industries identified six main necessary conditions to successfully ramp up the use of 3D printing: 1) creating a collaborative industry network, 2) improvement of technology such as printing throughput and materials used, 3) reliable and secure information sharing, 4) gradual transformation to modular production and supply chain, 5) defining new process and quality standards a, and 6) changing roles and capabilities.

A shift from global supply chain to local supply chain is expected due the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Undoubtedly, 3D printing will play an important role in such a transformation.