The fit of additive manufacturing in today’s world and the involvement of governments

Autor: Abel Bajuelos Rizo
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30 November 2022

Recent global events have accelerated the visualisation of the MA ecosystem as a key strategic technology substrate. Since the trade wars, the breakdown of global supply chains and the successive shortages of goods caused by the pandemic, the developed world was suddenly awakening from its lethargy of industrial offshoring. Having dismantled most of its manufacturing capacity, an incipient additive ecosystem between domestic and industrial came to the rescue, demonstrated its potential and amazed by its flexibility and scope.

“We might be witnessing the dawn of a new industrial era in this decade. Strikingly, it might be despite rather than because of successfully rolling out smart manufacturing technologies (which we, arguably, have not)”

Professor John Hart, MIT

C’est ainsi que débute un article récemment publié sur Forbes.com, à la suite du Manufacturing MIT Symposium : 2022 and Beyond [1]. L’organisateur de l’événement poursuit :

“Manufacturing is the engine of our economy, and we stand at a crossroads between the promise of new manufacturing technologies, and the dire needs of our workforce, industrial base, and innovation ecosystem”

Professor John Hart, MIT
John Hart, via Forbes.

The article also delves into the importance of the human factor in productivity, and the mistake of conceiving of manufacturing as an inferior way to generate growth, prioritising services and digital technologies over manufacturing.

Historically, the debate on how MA fits into today’s world has emerged from the private and academic spheres, but what is the position of governments? Let’s look at some examples of public initiatives in this regard.

Strategies for the adoption of technology by public administrations

In line with the MIT speech, President Biden has just launched the AM Forward initiative [2], [3], which basically aims to accelerate the reindustrialisation of the country. The statement begins by saying:

“AM Forward will help reduce costs for American families by improving the competitiveness of small and medium-sized US manufacturers, creating and sustaining good-paying manufacturing jobs, and improving supply chain resilience through the adoption of additive manufacturing

Joe Biden
Joe Biden inspects parts during the launch event of the AM Forward initiative. Image via Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

This type of analysis is not exclusive to developed countries. India, which recently overtook the UK as the world’s fifth largest economy, has just approved its National Strategy for Additive Manufacturing [4]. In its introduction it states:

´´Additive Manufacturing is propelling the world into an Industrial 4.0 revolution, offering immense potential that can revolutionise the manufacturing landscape and industrial production in India through digital processes, communication, imaging, architecture and engineering that provide flexibility and efficiency”

Indian Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology

Let’s look at another example from a superpower, China. Going back to 2015, a multi-sectoral effort by the government of the Asian giant launched the ‘Made in China 2025’ plan [5], since then envisioned:

“Countries, both developed and developing, are reshaping their competitiveness as new technologies emerge, including 3D printing, mobile internet, cloud computing and new energy, and China urgently needs to improve its ability to innovate and harness these cutting-edge technologies”

The State Council of People’s Republic of China
Various AM adoption strategies around the world. Via Indian Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology

Globally, governments are closely assessing the impact of AM technologies on the development of their economies, skills and capabilities, and developing their national manufacturing strategies.

In the face of high transport costs, tariff protectionism and the restrictions imposed by the latest waves of sanctions, coupled with high energy costs and an ageing population, a technology that allows a file to be sent anywhere in the world, and materialised there, within a few miles of the consumer/customer, is becoming increasingly attractive.

References

Cover Image via Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

[1] Manufacturing MIT Symposium: 2022 and Beyond

[2] Nota de prensa de la Casa Blanca sobre el lanzañiento de AM Forward

[3] AM Forward

[4] Indian National Strategy for Additive Manufacturing (Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology)

[5] Made in China

Abel Bajuelos Rizo

Diseñador Industrial, especialista en Manufactura Aditiva. Fundador de Addimensional

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