The digital manufacturing revolution is accelerating! While companies have been shifting their spending to ecommerce for years, it has accelerated with the pandemic and more remote work. The transition has led to companies becoming more comfortable with ecommerce as a way to do business—and often preferring it over traditional methods that are more time consuming.
This mindset is in stark contrast to the early 2000s when firms were reluctant to adopt ecommerce-enabled, or digital, manufacturers. Most recently, we saw companies turn to digital manufacturing as a lifeline against supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic.
Now, as the economy accelerates out of the pandemic, I predict we will see an accelerated and permanent change in how supply chains are managed, with a greater focus on resiliency, convenience and speed. This makes digital, technology-enabled manufacturing critical going forward.
The need for digital manufacturing existed long before the pandemic. The foundation from which our industry will grow is rooted in today’s demand for innovation. Perhaps nowhere is this demand more apparent than in the medical device industry, where innovation and speed to market are critical.
For example, Waltham, Mass.-based Corindus set out recently to create the CorPath GRX, a second-generation robotic device that helps physicians precisely move and control guidewires, guide catheters, stents and balloon catheters during vascular procedures to open up blocked arteries.
Corindus used Protolabs’ digital manufacturing service for the design and development of the CorPath’s cassette, which is attached to the arm of the robot to position the guidewires or catheters.
In the early development of the cassette, Corindus was working on a very tight schedule. The initial hope was to have a close-to-final cassette in the first round of prototyping. In fact, multiple iterations of the prototype were necessary, which increased the company’s speed needs. Corindus also abandoned an idea to use machining or 3D printing and opted to prototype with injection molding to validate the process it would ultimately be using to produce the end-use parts.
Multiple quick-turn iterations became possible for Corindus because we were able to deliver parts in days. With a domestic partner, Cordindus also avoided some supply chain disruptions. Protolabs’ digital manufacturing capabilities let Corindus seamlessly transition from prototype to production without delay.
Meanwhile, Corindus also had special supply chain considerations post-FDA approval. Initial demand for a new tech like the CorPath GRX was unknown and difficult to predict. On-demand production was an ideal fit for Corindus at this stage because the firm was able to order the cassette’s various components at low volumes for an affordable price and on short notice, letting them reduce their need for stocked inventory.
Stories like the production of the CorPath GRX exemplify the vital role digitally enabled rapid manufacturing will play for decades.
Because this new reality in manufacturing reduces our reliance on complex supply chains and manual processes, companies can become more agile. And with that agility, manufacturers are able to move from design to prototyping to production quicker than ever before.
The result is never-before-seen levels of innovation meeting the demands of today, not six months ago. As a digital manufacturer and a consumer, I could not be more excited about the future of manufacturing.