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How additive manufacture is supporting the COVID-19 pandemic

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How additive manufacture is supporting the COVID-19 pandemic

Additive manufacture, or 3D printing as it’s often referred to, is disrupting all industries. As businesses across the globe do their bit to support the global COVID-19 pandemic, our project officer, Janine Downs talks us through what is additive manufacture and how it’s being applied to support the pandemic.

What is additive manufacture?

Additive manufacture (AM) or 3D printing is a process that creates 3D objects, usually built layer by layer. Additive manufacture can be created in metals or polymers and is used across a wide spectrum of industries, from manufacturing, engineering, MedTech, art and design to food.

Additive manufacture has an awesome superpower. It allows applications to disrupt and therefore enable further innovative designs to be produced and viewed differently in a very relatively short space of time, compared to traditional manufacturing and design methods.  AM is bringing about innovative new products, as well as kickstarting new and agile business models.

Creating agile business models

If a designer or engineer can think of the possibilities to change their product and utilise AM, they can quickly bring something to life at a fraction of the cost of normal production. This is disrupting markets, as the quicker and quirkier someone showcases an idea then the more competitive they become and start to change how that market works, unsettling competitors and staying ahead of the production game.

How additive manufacture is being applied to COVID-19

In these times of vital need to design and produce life-saving elements to help with the COVID-19 pandemic, the minds of designers and engineers are collaborating to bring solutions quickly to the marketplace or straight to the NHS, usually without any commercialisation involved.

Examples include 3D printing face shield elements and ventilator valves. Across the world there has always been a concerted collaboration between research institutes, such as innovation centres and universities combined with manufacturing and industry capabilities. This global crisis is seeing a higher return of government, institution and business collaboration to ‘fight this epidemic’.

Additive manufacture at the 3M BIC

Additive manufacture is a core service at the 3M BIC, with capabilities to print in metals and polymers.

One company we worked with at the 3M BIC wanted to print a part then add several to finish the component. We looked at the design and amalgamated five standard components and turned them into one finished product. This saved costs, assembly time and issues if the supply chain didn’t have the relevant add-on components to finish the work.

For more information about the additive manufacturing (AM) facilities at the 3M BIC, contact the team on 01484 505601 or e-mail

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