The biggest challenge medical device manufacturers are facing right now is the overseas supply chain, Matt Sand, co-founder and president of 3DEO, tells MD+DI. “We’ve all experienced the devastating disruption over the last 2 years, and this has invariably prompted every medical device manufacturer to reconsider their overall risk, their vendors, and to search for ways to find new opportunities on-shore,” he says.
Additive manufacturing may be one such option. 3DEO manufactures precision metal components using patented metal 3D printing technology. The company just highlighted its latest 3D-printing platform and patented technology, Saffron, as well as its digital end-to-end platform, the Manufacturing Cloud, during a February 28 press conference at its recently expanded 80,000-sq-ft facility in Torrance, CA.
Sand tells MD+DI that “3D printing has most commonly been used in the medical device industry for prototyping, with those parts manufactured in high volumes using metal injection molding (MIM).” The company is now working to move medtech companies from 3D printed prototypes to mass production.
“For example, one of our customers brought their end effector designs to 3DEO last year, which they had historically manufactured with MIM. They had grown accustomed to product development cycles of 6+ months, and during each round encountered a design freeze due to tooling and minimum order requirements. When they partnered with 3DEO, we were able to optimize that product development cycle to 2-4 weeks, and they could iterate more frequently on their designs within the same project plan. Not only did they get to market faster, but we shifted their revenue curve forward in time - a difference of $57 million in revenue,” he explained.
As medical device companies review their manufacturing options, “total cost of ownership comes into play,” Sand says. “While in the past, buyers may have approached a purchasing decision with short-term price—or piece price—as highest priority, the delayed revenue many companies have faced with their parts backlogged has started to impact their long-term revenue. We’ve heard the same story from many of our customers: ‘I can’t get my parts to make my products’ or ‘My product is stuck at the port, and I have no idea when to expect it.’ In fact, we recently saw a customer who had more than $500,000 in inventory that they couldn’t ship because they were missing just one component.”
Sand says that “3DEO’s on-demand nature and digital manufacturing platform allows us to get production parts (not just prototypes) in-hand to our customers within weeks, unlocking their paused revenue and eliminating gaps in their supply chain. We not only help companies address new risks in their initial product launches, but we can also play an integral role in minimizing disruption to their existing product manufacturing. In either case, 3DEO is giving executive leadership the power to rethink the relationship of their supply chain and internal operations by taking a holistic approach to cross-functional capacity and improving both bottom and top-line revenue.”
And there may be other benefits to shortening the supply chain. “In terms of sustainability, companies across the globe are making concerted efforts to become more environmentally friendly,” Sand says. “At 3DEO, for example, we recycle our proprietary metal alloy powders to ensure our processes follow a zero waste protocol. 3D printing is as close to environmentally friendly manufacturing as possible, and we are proud to be playing our part as a clean manufacturer, made right here in America.”
3DEO is planning to install 125 of the next-gen Saffron printers at its Torrance headquarters over the next three years, equipping the location to produce more than 20 million parts per year.
Sand will be speaking at the upcoming MD&M West 2022 "Design Engineer Build" conference on April 12 in How Additive Manufacturing Will Democratize Manufacturing.