The 3D printing industry has undeniably risen up to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing rapid response with 3D print solutions. Talking with Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard in this episode is Mike Shannon, the Senior Strategic Plastics Sourcing Program Manager at HP. Mike shares his perspectives on the shift in digital manufacturing happening in this pandemic. He discusses how 3D printing has been keeping up with the current demands of the supply chain, and, conversely, how the pandemic has been a huge reinforcement of its capabilities. Mike shares the ways HP has been helping healthcare workers and communities cope worldwide. Listen in for advice on innovating around problems and taking them as opportunities to find more sustainable solutions.
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COVID-19 3D Print Solutions and the Pandemic Digital Manufacturing Shift with Mike Shannon
Mike’s education is in Polymer Technology and Metals Manufacturing management. He worked in the plastics injection molding industry for five years before joining HP’s printer business in Vancouver, WA in 1991 as a plastics procurement engineer. He spent the next nine years managing various printer development programs from the first Desk Jet mono and color printers to eventually managing the plastics procurement team supporting the Americas.
In early 2000 Mike left the hardware business to join Global Operations where he managed a diverse sourcing and IT data management team chartered to develop web-based strategic sourcing tools such as spend analysis and reverse auctioning for the procurement community.
In 2006 Mike transitioned to the supplies business as the supply chain section manager over the ink commodity business and technical teams. In 2014 he managed the Regulatory Management and Chemical Compliance organization responsible for ensuring chemical regulatory compliance and market access for $15 billion in ink, toner, and media coating supplies.
In 2017 Mike moved back to the hardware business where he’s led the 3D Multi Jet Fusion supply chain strategy for the 3D color printer. He’s helped to build a 3d supply base in NA and Asia and is currently leading supply chain efforts for several Covid19 initiatives.
28 years with HP mostly in supply chain. SC, injection molding, ink commodity, and 3D MJF focus.
LinkedIn Link: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-shannon-3b94182/
I’m coming from my home office talking to Mike Shannon in his home office. We’re having these interesting times being sheltering at home, being sequestered with COVID-19 going rampant, there’s a lot of great acceleration. The positive opportunity has been happening on the 3D print side, the material side, all kinds of things. What do you see as one of the most exciting accelerations and opportunities for helping right now?
The biggest opportunity here is awareness. 3D’s capability can respond rapidly and we’ve been able to test that through the prototyping phases, through various COVID-type projects that we’ve been working on. We’ve taken designs and you hear about this all the time. You hear how with 3D, you could do something in 3 or 4 days, design then gets it to market, but we’ve done that. In seven days, our customers went from design concept to production. That’s been a huge awareness or reinforcement of what 3D is supposed to be able to do to be able to see it. Now, others are being able to experience that beyond maybe some of the smaller little pockets of people that do this on a regular basis.
The rapid response is what we always hoped. We always wanted 3D printing to be able to do it. It didn’t always have that opportunity, that space where it could get the visibility for what it’s great at. We are seeing that now. It’s an unfortunate but fortunate side effect at the same time. What actions are you finding that HP is taking, that your clients and customers are taking to help healthcare workers and communities cope?
It’s a global pandemic and it’s a global solution. The positive side of this whole thing, for me, that’s the encouraging piece. Everybody’s rolling up their sleeves. It doesn’t matter what country, what university, what business you’re in. People are all trying to be able to support. HP specifically, we’re working on a number of COVID projects where we’re making face shields that we’re donating, as well as we’re helping our customers get to market with their solutions, their designs. We’re helping to be able to put supply chains, value chains together, not just the MJF or the 3D printed aspect of it, our technology with our customers. We’re also going in and helping to be able to find suppliers that need other subcomponents that may go into an assembly.
The value chain even further up because now it’s a complex world where you have to get things through FDA and certifications. Not all of our customers have those kinds of links and experiences. We’re connecting or reaching out to medical device manufacturers and we’re reaching out to medical distributors so that we’re building those value chains to connect to get this product to market. It’s one thing to be able to design it quickly. It’s another thing to be able to figure out how you get it to the customers and in their hands. We’ve got a big network of people that are there helping to be able to do that.
I love that the breadth of the customer base that you have allows you to touch so many people at once. It’s very easy to start making those connection points. Even though you’re such a big company at HP, the collaboration and connections are so high between all your departments and how everybody rallies together. Is that an uncommon thing? Is it happening right now or is that common all the time?
HP traditionally is very collaborative. We learned a long time ago from the procurement supply chain perspective that you need to have partners in collaboration with design and you need partners in collaboration with manufacturing. We’ve always worn in becoming a supply chain in the world these multiple hats where we represent the suppliers. To the people that are making the parts on the line, we represent the suppliers and the people on the line when they’re designing parts in R&D. We’re very facilitative in our role. It’s our culture as well. We’re doing this collaboration. There’s mutual respect for everybody’s roles that they have to play from design production to sourcing. We’ve been able to work in concert. That rules out to this global pandemic where that’s second nature for us to bring parties together. That’s been a value add that we’ve been able to bring to the solution to our customer base.
Mike, it seems that with this pandemic, the volume of the need has spiked in certain cities at different times or certain countries. From your perspective, has 3D printing been able to keep up with that quantity demand?
Two pieces that come to mind when you talk about the quantity demand and the rapid response. I’ll go to the rapid response quickly and touch on the quantity. A lesson that I’ve learned that opened open up with this is that 3D printing is fast. We know that in 3, 4 or 5 days, you can have a product ready for the market. The piece that I’m also learning, as I was talking about developing the value chains, the supply chain and the connections, that doesn’t always move as fast as the technology. You have a situation where you can move rapidly, but you have to be planning with that endpoint in mind. How do you bring the supply chain together so that it’s ready in seven days to be able to build a market? That’s been a bit of a challenge.
Equally, in those different commodities, we’re working with die-cut manufacturing to be able to provide clear PET shields to our 3D printed frames that our customers are making. In that environment, they have a prototype and faster solutions as well. They’ve matured. We’ve been able to tie into those. Some of those manuals, “How do you process a PO to be able to get them to the website, to be able to make sure that the supply comes in and that everything can go out the door on time?” All that still has to be done. There are tools that advanced that but it’s still a bit drawn out.
On the quantity side, there’s a place for 3D printing and then there’s a place for injection molding, which is typically where we have a balance. Right now, even if these volumes would dictate that you would be in injection molding, the world is unsure. We don’t know if this COVID thing goes away tomorrow, it goes away in six months, or a year. All businesses are trying to read and figure out so they can figure out how to position their investments and what investments to make to be able to put in solutions. 3D printing comes in very economically very quickly and potentially it becomes a bridging solution to get to higher volumes that potentially may be required.
I like the idea of the bridging solution that also allows you to make more design refinement because we are learning new things every single day about how to fight the disease or how our equipment needs to operate or what we need to protect ourselves. That flexibility is important too.
That’s been pivotal too in this whole development process. The speed at which we can iterate goes back to your conversations about the collaboration, getting the feedback and having everybody together so that we can make those connections and the responsibility.
The amount of time it would take to make an injection mold tool to respond, you would be at the best-case scenario 1 month or 6 weeks down the road, if you rushed it and you’re stuck. You’re not going to iterate with that. You want to make sure that it’s right.
You, along with other members of the HP team had a webinar that was sponsored about COVID-19 containment, applications, and a lot of other things. What was the webinar called?
It was how 3D manufacturing processes are supporting the supply chain.
It was about 3D manufacturing. It was so interesting because I also started to think that the conversation heads into a lot of what you were mentioning, the understanding of bridge production. We’ve been using that for quite some time, but it hasn’t been as publicly understood to the criticalness of having the ability to have a bridge production model.
It goes back to your question, how does all this stuff feed together? We talk about this all the time with my suppliers, with our customers. The key when you move into new product development is you’d have to think far enough down the road to understand. Start with the endpoint in mind. If you can do that, then you can plan back through the life cycle of the product to be able to make sure you’re using the right solutions. Bridging for us typically means that we’re using our technology for 3D printing in the early stages of the life cycle. We’re stabilizing the designs going through multiple iterations more cost-effectively because we’re not building steel tools in the slower iteration process update. As you go up the curve, you end up moving into injection molding, and hopefully, it’s stable and you don’t have any issues down the road.
The other part of it that intrigues me so much is that we’re having such a disruption in the supply chain. People don’t understand the complexity of the supply chain and sometimes the complexity within a product. You understand that to the nth degree. Your printer is inherently a supply chain complex with all the different parts and pieces. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
If you go to the color printer that we’re working on the plastic side of it, so injection molded pieces and 3D printed pieces, there were close to 800 plastic parts that went into the machine. Now, it’s back down closer to 600 because a lot of those get obsolete like we’re talking about. That’s a very complex operation, but beyond that, there are probably another 30 or 40 commodities that are going into that piece of equipment. Probably not at that level of volume because plastics usually make a big piece, but then you get sheet metals and the last numeric piece, the die-cut pieces. All of those are very complex. When you get a disruption like COVID worldwide, it throws chaos into the manufacturing arena, trying to figure out how do you get alternative sources of supply. In order to be able to do that, you have to understand all the commodity supply chains and having backup redundant solutions in place to be able to respond in a time like this.When you move into new #3Dproductdevelopment, the key is to think far enough down the road to understand #manufacturing. @HP @ZbyHP Click To Tweet
When we think of the supply chain, we instantly think of China, which isn’t the only disruption because I saw a report on the news about the little vials that they put immunizations in, drugs and other medicines come from Italy. The glass is made in Italy. With them having their issues, we’re having supply chain problems there. We in the US know that we’re having a supply chain problem in meats and other areas. We don’t grasp the globalness of this. It’s not just a China problem. It’s a worldwide problem.
We’re in a cycle. We’re living that every day and that goes into my thinking now. When I’m setting up the supply or this value chain as we go up into the medical manufacturers, we realize that it’s great if you have this 3D printed swab, but you also need to make sure that you have the vials for the kit. The reagents that go into it, the sterilization, the packaging and all those pieces. In this world where you can’t get all those sources of supply worldwide, you need to be able to look internally and find those source of supply they can’t make the reagents that have medical grade injection molding facilities to be able to make the tubes, the caps and have those capabilities. Where they don’t, we work together to be able to try to get that for those vertically integrated if we don’t have those dependencies right now, which is so critical to get this product to market.
It’s not always feasible and realistic to go vertical. You know that when you’re starting up a new product. It’s not feasible to go vertical. Very many times, we even do our product design in multiple stages. One where we start with off the shelf parts completely and then do whatever the design modification that we want to test out the market value on. We might move to, now we’re going to make more of it special and unique. Eventually, maybe we might go completely vertical by the third round of it. All along, we’re selling and testing the product. Depending on the product life cycle, even a big brand does that same process. A small brand doesn’t have the option because pricing is usually a factor. Finding something off the shelf and going vertical can be very expensive if you’re not in the right business.
We refer to that as turnkey and guided turnkey solutions within our operations, with the supply chain. Our turnkey solutions are those that we buy off the shelf and then we’ve got thousands of those pieces that go into that complex pieces of equipment, the 3D printer that we’re talking about. We’ve got the more customized solutions that we have called guided turnkey, where we have the subject matter expertise. We’ve worked directly with the supply chain that we picked. As we transition it, as you were talking about where we developed it locally for our local prototype lines. As we go into production, we transitioned some of them over to turnkey. We allow the contract manufacturers to pick their sources of supplies within their region to get the best deals. There’s a life cycle of that as well.
There’s got to be some great stories in the customers of yours that are doing some interesting things that are real-world examples. Let’s talk a little bit about that. Tell us some of the applications that you’ve been saying.
A couple of that I’ve been working on is the face shields. You know what that looks like. Anything in the PPE world has been in short supply, but we’re rapidly trying to be able to fill that need as quickly as we can. We’ve been able to do that with this collaborative environment, putting this value chain together to be able to respond with different players. Small businesses, larger corporations that have a global footprint, and the little guys that are doing maybe the 3D printing. It’s been fabulous and fun to be able to put that together. Working with a number of universities, Yale at one particular point here has been working on some development applications that are split or related to the ventilators. They’re trying to come up with some leading technologies on how to be able to split the ventilation so that you can have 2 or 3 patients on one machine.
It’s interesting because if you do any reading around splitters, the doctors are saying that what a crazy concept that would be in a time when you don’t need them. There have been some exploratory research projects done. Everybody pushed those to the side, but then you get a global pandemic and those aren’t here. What was crazy then is very important now. Somehow they’re dusting those things off and realizing that there is a value proposition there.
In some of those examples of things like replacement parts or diverters or splitters and that type of thing is that in recognition of that, if we are not great as a manufacturer of a product. If we’re making a ventilator, we’re making anything, but we don’t have the assets of the digital design of all of the different pieces and parts, we can’t be as flexibly responsive. That is now also something that’s come to the forefront of thinking. It is our responsibility as those that make a product to make sure that all of those assets and all of those things are in a repository and can be shared and willingly shared. We’ve heard of some stories of them not being willingly shared. Being at that place where that can happen, because so many times we know when we design products, by the time it gets manufactured, the drawings don’t even match anymore.
In this environment, a lot of stuff is going out without drawings. We’re moving rapidly. You still have to have them, but you’re catching up. In my normal world, in my lifecycle working at HP, you never would release a product without a print. I’m here to tell you some of that’s happening pretty quickly.
To respond quickly, I’ve had experience with engineers in other countries, in particular, Europe and countries like France and Germany. Those cultures must be wrestling with this need to put things out quickly because they tend to engineer and not putting anything out until they think it’s perfect. I don’t think they inherently embrace iteration the way that we do in the United States. Have you experienced any of that?
It’s hard for me to be able to say culture to culture because for every culture you can say iterate. I can give you 4 or 5 different examples even within my own company where we have those kinds of challenges. That’s an engineering phenomenon.
It’s an engineering mindset that has to shift.
It’s DNA. We’re wearing a tool belt and we’re trying to get the best product out. That transcends all different kinds of cultures. The thing that’s interesting is that every once in a while, it’s good to stress your systems. It’s good to stress and break your systems. A lot of times I have this little mantra that I share with my suppliers. It’s important to be able to stress and break so you can innovate. If you don’t have that DNA and that formula in your organization, you end up stressing and breaking things, losing money and going out of business. It’s the companies that understand how to be able to respond rapidly and they can see where sources of variation or drifting into the manufacturing operation and they can respond to it because they have those triggers. They’re paying attention to it and then they can iterate. When you come to a time of crisis like this, those are the companies that are able to accelerate. They’re able to go quickly, whether they’re not related to cultures anywhere on the world, it’s that formula that remains the same.
The opportunity to help is greater so that our desire as human beings to be helpful, we will inherently get frustrated if there’s a bureaucratic system in the process of it. A paperwork trail, as you were talking about POs and other things getting in our way, we’ll say, “There’s got to be a better way. Let’s be ingenious about this. Let’s use good old American ingenuity or European ingenuity, whatever it might be, and let’s fix this system.”
That’s what excites me and excites everybody. When everybody has the same vision and the same passion with a common goal, you can move mountains. That’s what’s happening right now. People feel connected. Honestly, having governments, to be able to help, to be able to remove the roadblocks, to put emergency use authorizations in place, to get this innovation bubbling, there’s a lesson for a lot of people to be able to learn there. When you take the handcuffs off, creativity and innovation flourishes. You have to do that with the processes and make sure that we’re safe. I’m seeing innovation daily here every time we’re engaging. You move so fast, you come up with a lot of problems, a lot of challenges. When you get the right mix of people, you’re able to break through those, especially if you have the right mix of people without those constraints that typically would hold you down. You’re saying, “That will take you six months to be able to get it through a regulatory process,” or what have you. In this environment, if you’ve got the right DNA and culture within your own business, you have the opportunity to be able to test your skills. That’s what’s happening for a lot of us.
The thing that I was thinking about was the idea of localized manufacturing, being able to then distribute out. This was always a real problem for us early on when we had been thinking about having a 3D design business where we would design and then they could be locally printed around the world. There wasn’t consistency and quality, but the 3D printing, and especially with your products at HP, they’ve come to a level of consistent and quality output that you can feel fairly confident. Whether you’re in New York or Los Angeles or Rome, Italy, you’ll be able to print the same part for the same replacement for a piece of equipment.
That’s huge for us right now. My background is pretty deep and pretty broad as far as global development and development supply chain, so working with suppliers all around the world. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be able to work on our color printer, which was on the supply chain side that I was helping to champion for the 3D printing. Putting our parts in our machine, that’s also another concept. To be able to not have to be on the phone at 11:00 at night or 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning talking to operations around the world that I’m on the same time zone with West Coast suppliers to us with our technology. Having talked to them and having the line of sight in the very beginning to be able to say, “We’ll do the development with you, but you’ve got to be able to get this over into Asia where we’re going to be building it.”
Aligning with those people makes it easy to be able to make the transition. One of our suppliers in the Bay Area, we started into the MPI, the product development cycles. They moved their operation or started and grew the data, but they offered to open up another one in the basement of the contract manufacturing operation, the one of the same. They moved everything to their basement in Asia. That was fantastic. It was turned because it took the files, the processes of the designs and turn them on and the same equipment in the basement. Talk about flexibility, tying to market and not having to get through customs. Other products are coming in at the same time from North America. They’re coming in and the boxes are all beat up and there are holes in them and parts are being broken. That’s my biggest issue right now is getting parts to the facility without them breaking because of the transit impact. These people are down in the basement and they’re not even putting them in boxes. They’re putting them on a rack. They’re rolling the rack into their elevator, pushing the button and there they deliver them to the floor. That is the epitome of this opportunity that we have in the digital world.
I couldn’t have imagined it a few years ago, to be honest with you. The technology wasn’t there. We recognized that from our desire for what we want it to do. There wasn’t the consistency, the quality, the ability wasn’t there. Now it is, and that is the biggest excitement for me is that the ecosystem, the structure and foundation is in place that we can all build off of that.
It’s funny because it reminds me that my suppliers, who are also HP’s customers that bought our technology, it’s hard for them to also get their head wrapped around this. Traditionally, if you have injection molding and deep background on injection molding, and there’s a problem. They usually try to hide that from the customer as long as they possibly can. They’re trying to fix it. They don’t want to look bad but they’re stressing us out because now we get that call in the eleventh hour that the tool broke down or the machine broke down. You still have that mindset. Even in 3D printing, it’s normal. I’m trying to break those barriers down to be able to say, “Take the pressure off of you.”It's good to stress your #operationsystems every once in a while so that you can #innovate. @HP @ZbyHP Click To Tweet
In injection molding, if your machine was down, we’re hurting. We have to physically move that steel tool to another customer. It could be in a different state, country, whatever, to be able to keep operations going. Now I talk to them, I say, “Let’s have better transparency here. Don’t worry because I get manufacturing. That’s in my DNA. We’ve been doing it so long. Murphy’s Law always prevails. You’re going to have hiccups. Let me know because now I can get you some cover time. I can get you 3, 5, 7 days because now I can pick up the phone and send the files over to another supplier of ours and turn it from 1 day or 1 hour from one place to the next.” We can turn it on while they’re getting their factory operation back and going.
The trust factor that they have to have is that they haven’t lost the business from that. We’ve got this ability to be able to move it between a network of HP customers. It’s very powerful. They’re learning that. They’re trusting me right now at this point, but initially, they were trying to do the same thing. They hold back and not share. Now you take the pressure off of them and they’re not panicking. They know they get the business and then they get to do it in return for other people that have those kinds of issues as well.
You can start to spawn collaboration between each one of them so that they can cover each other, so you won’t even know it’s all working for you.
That’s happening, especially through our COVID business right now. With face shields, we get orders for hundreds of thousands within a week. The network, our HP customers, gets orders for hundreds of thousands of these and they can’t produce them all. They’re able to work through the network, transferring common files, and following the common processes to be able to deliver. It’s much more power. You can’t do that very easily in an injection mold. You’d have to have tools in every one of these facilities to be able to make something like that happen. These are the things that are working their way up because of COVID testing some of these concepts that everybody knew you could do. Now, we’re putting some products into it.
I wish that the infrastructure around the world for testing could be 3D printed. It can’t. It’s more involved with chemistry and other things, but if they could, we’d be a lot better off in this world. At least in these other ways, we have ways now to turn it on as much as needed. I also was thinking, you probably could have a situation where you may need to manufacture something so quickly that has multiple different kinds of parts and maybe capacity and throughput on the machine. You’re going to have one supplier making one part of a certain set of parts and another making another set of parts and then bring them all together.
That’s a little bit what we’re doing right now with face shields and even with swabs. We’re working on 3D printed swabs and you know the volumes, you know the numbers. They’re huge in the demand and what have you. It’s a lot for one of our customers to be able to keep up with that. That network capability and knowing that we’ve got the repeatability within our equipment, we’ve got the design that’s stable that we can set up that puts you in a good spot to be able to respond. To me, this is new because I come out of the injection molding arena. It’s fun to be able to realize you can think in a different digital space.
Mike, do you have any advice for the 3D designers and the 3D printers out there who are reading to this and for the businesses that are out there? What is the biggest opportunity for them? How can they look at the world differently and look at it as an opportunity instead of a crisis?
I like the idea of talking about stressing and breaking systems so you can innovate. That’s a positive outlook on a negative situation. If you can find positivity in this horrible time, it’s helping to be able to highlight the gaps, the needs, the inefficiencies. I read an article. I shared this with somebody that thought it was pretty funny like I did. There was a reference to the learnings about COVID and being prepared in the medical industry and governments around the world. This is just one impact. They quoted Alan Greenspan. He said, “When the tide goes out, you can find out who’s been swimming without a bathing suit.”
The whole idea that comes back to that stress, break, and innovate. It’s like in time inventory. While the tides are high, you can hide a lot of inefficiencies. When the tide goes down, your inventory doesn’t fill your line. It exposes the weaknesses in the systems and processes. The winners in business are the ones that embrace that and see that as the gold nugget in the pan. I’m not throwing that nugget down the stream. They’re going to take them back. They have a DNA to be able to say, “How do I put in operations and systems to be able to identify, reduce and remove sources of variation?” When they see it, they respond to it versus early in my career, I was in an injection molding company that went bankrupt. They had a big loss. They were stressing and breaking systems, but the way they were solving problems is they weren’t innovating. They were throwing people at problems.
Being able to develop that culture and then using 3D printing technology, to be able to be one of the tools in your tool belt to be able to solve those problems. One of the things that we do, we have over 300 MJF 3D parts in our colored printer. One of the things that we watched our quality grow because you have to remember, this is a brand-new technology. It was never used before. It’s probably the world’s largest application of using 3D printed parts. We had a number of issues for quality at our suppliers, as well as on our line.
What we ended up doing very early stages of development is that we would sit down with our suppliers every single month. We would have them stack all of their rejects on a table in front of us. We would take a look at those rejects of damaged parts. We would use those as opportunities. That was the golden nuggets. They were on the table in front of us. We then iterated design solutions around all of those. We designed and redesigned these parts every single month. 3D capability, to be able to make that, it’s cost-effective and you get to turn it quickly. We got this cycle going with the R&D partners and with our suppliers and we were in with our contract manufacturer solving these problems. Over the course of about six months, we watched our quality jump up to about 90%, 92% good parts. Over the next three months, we watched it get up to about 97%, 98%. Now, we’re running about 99.4% good parts that are up on the lines.
I can tell you that’s a hard thing to do with that many parts in a product.
It’s working with good suppliers. They have and share the same vision of the same processes. They get it on how to be able to put these pieces together. The value of 3D allows you to be able to do that if you have the umbrella of that DNA on how to be able to identify sources and manufacturing inefficiencies.
Mike, thank you so much for sharing what’s been going on, for keeping on top of this and for being a part of solutions around the world. Thank you, Mike, for your participation.
I appreciate it. It was a good opportunity. Thanks for having me.
COVID-19 3D Print Solutions and the Pandemic Digital Manufacturing Shift — Final Thoughts
That last bit of advice that he was giving about being positive and have a positive outlook, I want to add one little thing that we gave advice to our clients as well. That is that when you approach something as this is a short-term thing, we’ve got to get and push through it. When you look at that and you don’t look it as an opportunity to make something that’s more sustainable long-term, then you don’t make efficiency. We have our podcast business as we mentioned. We were onboarding a lot of new clients. It’s stressing our system of being able to take them efficiently through making sure we’re keeping up on them, monitoring their progress, and all of those things.
It’s stressing our customer service side of our system. If we didn’t take that as an opportunity and we said, “This is going to be short-term,” that’s not realistic because wouldn’t it be great if our business sustained at that new level? Thinking about that, short-term thinking is also a problem. When you stay in that negative crisis mode, then you stay in that short-term thinking. Moving into opportunity and innovation requires a sustainable long-term outlook. That’s one of the ways that you can move from that. I hope that that advice that Mike was giving and what we’re saying right now is helping move to that. You’ve also had some great little stories and other things you’ve been picking up and saving in the news to talk about.
They are about short-term needs and innovating around problems. I agree with Mike completely and how he said that. If you don’t take that opportunity to innovate, you can’t help yourself in the long-term. A couple of different stories and if you haven’t seen these in the news, we’re going to have links at 3DStartPoint.com for these. Some of them have videos that will also be there. You’ll want to check out videos and images. There’s a company out of Upstate New York in Liverpool, a 3D print manufacturer. I hadn’t even heard of them before but they’re taking their 3D printers and are manufacturing face shields.
Mike talked about that. HP clients are doing that as well. HP is facilitating their clients to make them. To take these 3D printers that they have, that they’re trying to sell the 3D printers, but in the meantime, meeting the need right now for creating and manufacturing face shields. It’s the same thing, plastic-type face shields, the 3D printing the piece that goes on your head that the face shield goes on. That’s a very important thing that they’re doing to help, which is very impressive.
I wouldn’t mind buying one of those 3D printers. It’s field-tested. It did some good, and now that seems like a viable thing. That’s a great use of sitting inventory.#3Dprinting is fast. We know that in three, four, or five days, you can have a product ready for the market. @HP @ZbyHP Click To Tweet
Budmen Industries is the name of the company. I hadn’t been aware of them as a 3D printer manufacturer.
We did interview Isaac Budmen because he wrote a book. That doesn’t surprise me that Isaac would start up something like that.
The point is, as we’ve said, 3D printing is widely distributed and you have lots of people doing it.
The one thing I wanted to say about face masks that I’ve been thinking, and I’ve been hearing from a lot of people. Our friend, Dean Flood was mentioning how hard it was for them to get supplies to open. It was extended nursing care. It was like a facility that his wife works for. They can’t open unless they have certain pieces of equipment, of which they cannot obtain because they’re all being diverted to hospitals. Unless you’re an urgent care facility, you aren’t allowed to get the PPE necessary or the Personal Protective Equipment, to redefine that for those of you don’t remember what that is. They’ve been going to restaurant supply companies and they can only buy so much every single day. They each go every day to try to buy enough to be able to reopen the facility.
When you think about that, what a great solution for you if you’re in your community to help the hair salons, the smaller companies, the restaurants and those things that need to acquire the PPE, but not stress the hospital systems as or not take it away from those that need it in the healthcare system because we need to protect those workers too. What a great solution for it because it doesn’t have to be FDA approved. You don’t have to go through all of that, but it can be working and you don’t have to deal with any issues. Thinking about that, it’s a way you could be useful as a 3D printer.
I’d like to share another good story. This one’s out of Italy. We all know Italy got hit tremendously hard with the Coronavirus, more so than many countries. Hospitals in Italy were in desperate need of these valves that are used as a part of the IV process to give people fluids and medicines, and feed them when they’re in a coma and all this. They were unable to get a supply of the valves they needed. The hospitals had reached out to the supplier of the actual valve and said, “We need this many more now.” They said, “We don’t have them. We’re sorry. We can’t manufacture them that quickly. You would not get them for a long time.”
They asked if they could get the actual CAD file of the parts so that they could have them made and the company, from my understanding, did not agree to do that. They reverse-engineered them. They had some local people in Italy who had skills in 3D modeling and 3D printing, reverse engineer these parts, and make them so that they could meet their needs for healthcare, for their citizens. It’s a fantastic example of innovating your way around a problem and meeting the needs of your citizens to save lives. Unfortunately, there were some other stories that came out in this where the manufacturer threatened to sue these people that reverse-engineered them. That’s an ongoing thing. I have a link to the article if you want to know all the details about that. We have to approach this as a global community and realize, “They wanted to buy these things from you. If you can’t supply them and they have another way to make these supplies one way or another, that they need to save lives, we have to let that human safety and healing take place not allow it to happen.”
It’s not a good brand strategy for you to be doing that. I can’t imagine that any court is going to be too favorable on that anyway and now you’ve damaged yourself in public opinion. That’s not a smart move. I’m always of the opinion that IP is important, but not in the face of doing good.
Not at the expense of saving lives. You can carve out a very narrow exception that meets your company’s need for value and protection, but not at the expense of people’s lives. Anyway, that’s an isolated case, but I still think a great example of 3D printing being used in a wonderful way to help save lives. Many of you may have seen, I’ve 3D printed and used this myself, but many of us have the masks that you have loops that go over your ears and fabric, or there are even some medical made ones that have loops that go behind your ears.
For me, I wear glasses, the straps my ears are not very comfortable. They tend to pull your ears out. It made me look a little bit like Dumbo or something. I’ve got my ears sticking out. I don’t care about that. It’s also not very comfortable. There are many different versions, but there are some popular items where you can 3D print in twenty minutes at most a very small plastic that it’s thin enough that it’s flexible and bends. You can make it pretty much out of any plastic. I’ve found PLA worked great where it’s this thing that goes behind your neck essentially. It’s adjustable because there are many different little hooks that can essentially hook on those pieces of the side of your mask so you can wear them more comfortably.
This is the thing is that sometimes that’s a 3D print solution. When we have a hammer, we think everything is a nail. When we have a 3D printer, we think we should have 3D print everything. I see things sometimes through a textile lens. My solution to the ear problem was to get a headband with buttons and I put the loops on the buttons. It’s pretty low tech. It’s super low tech. It took about two seconds.
That solution is of no interest to me because I’m not going to wear a headband, even if you provided it to me or paid me to wear it.
It’s soft and comfortable.
Maybe it is, but it’s also not a 3D print solution. Why are we talking about that?
Sometimes you don’t need a 3D print solution for everything. It sounds great. I love that we have that capability of adding it into our repertoire, but sometimes we don’t need something that we have to take time to engineer.
I don’t know about that. I think it’s a 3D print solution for everything.
This is why we have this show. I want to say that to you that I was so grateful that I get to shelter in place in my best friend. I’m grateful that families are together right now. We wish the world recovery. We wish them good health. We all desire to be a part of the solution. Looking at these things less as crises and as opportunities, that’s the wisest thing that we can do right now. You might agree with me that I was put here on this earth to create. My gift to the world is that I have this creation ability, my design thinking, and my job is to apply that. If that’s where you are, if you’re in the manufacturing world, then manufacture. If you’re a designer, then go design. If you want to do good in the world, use your core gift right now because this is the time for you to shine and you to bring that out and to stopgap a problem with a great opportunity for innovation.
This is a horrible global health crisis that is once in a century type of thing, and it is terribly tragic, but we can all contribute in some way using whatever our gifts are. That’s a great thing that we can do and how we can contribute. It’s not that we’re excited about the fact that there’s this global health crisis, but we do see the silver lining.
We see it from all perspectives. I know that HP has seen it too because when you watch their webinar, you’ll understand where all of the departments are saying, “It’s about time that we start to fix this part of the industry, or we start to fix this part of the supply chain, or we start to do these things because we now are seeing why it’s a problem.” We were living with it before because complacency is a little easier path. Fixing things and change is hard, but now we have to change. When we look at all of that, it’s where I am with it. Thinking about the idea that there have been so many things wrong with the supply chain, there’s been so many things wrong with retail. We recognize that and there are so many things wrong in various parts of manufacturing and how other things work.
Now is the opportunity to take the time to repair them, to fix them, to get our business health back so that we can be more economically viable in this new economy that is emerging in the industry with the IE that we’ve been talking about throughout the series. That industry 4.0. The webinar that they ran, that has multiple experts on it, not just Mike Shannon, but had multiple experts on it. Some of whom you’ll recognize from other episodes as you go forward in the series, that’s going to be at 3DStartPoint.com. You could also go to 3DStartPoint.com/HP where you’ll have links to all of the various different resources and other tools that they provided for us to give to you.
The last thing I want to say is that in the whole process of what we’ve been doing here with HP, I know this episode is airing early, but we recorded it pretty late. We let some time go by to make sure that we understood what was happening with the response to COVID-19. There are very few companies that are poised to be as globally reactive and globally proactive in the process as HP. There are very few companies like that who can do that, who can be a part of the solution. HP being a part of the solution for global recovery, for COVID-19 recovery and for economic recovery, is high. I’m grateful that they’ve risen to the occasion.
I’ve also been very impressed by how they view what they’re doing, not only to further all those efforts, as you mentioned, Tracy but also to help advance the 3D printing industry as a whole. Not for the sake of HP, that’s been impressive to me. They see themselves as part of a bigger solution. They have the ability, the wherewithal to be able to invest and help move things forward and play and collaborate. That’s been impressive to me. You’ll see that as you go forward in the remaining episodes in the series.
Until the next one, this has been Tracy and Tom, on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
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- Mike Shannon
- Budmen Industries
- Isaac Budmen – Previous episode
- Virtual Panel: How additive manufacturing is solving supply chain gaps caused by COVID 19
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