Canada’s story has always been one of resilience, collaboration and ingenuity and in no time has that been truer than over the course of this year.
COVID-19 was a systemic shock—not just for Canada but for nearly every nation on earth. It revealed a soft underbelly to what we previously considered to be steadfast, resilient supply chains. But when the virus reached our shores, personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages arose in hospitals across the country. And at one point, ventilator shortages even led to multiple patients being connected to a single machine.
But our response was equally as swift. Within mere weeks, not months or years, we reengineered infrastructures, adopted new technologies and changed our collective mindset to support new ways of living and producing. We now have an opportunity not simply to build back, but to build better—with the realization that our country needs to bring manufacturing closer to our shores to help bridge supply chain gaps, drive economic growth and contend with an increasingly uncertain future.
Digital manufacturing, driven by advances in 3D printing technology, will help us do just that. Canada is ready to do more than participate in the digital manufacturing revolution. We are ready to lead it.
How 3D Printing Proved Critics Wrong at a Critical Moment
Once considered novel, a technology reserved for specific industries, 3D printing emerged as a solution to procuring fast, reliable PPE, especially when closed borders and lockdowns disrupted global supply chains. In fact, HP’s recent Digital Manufacturing Trends Report reveals 97% of Canadian business leaders believe that digital manufacturing technologies can lead to economic growth and nearly three out of four will invest in these technologies over the course of the next 12 months.
Canada must seize this watershed moment. During this crisis, digital manufacturing has proven its viability at scale. For HP’s part, our global network worked with partners in several countries to ramp up production of critical PPE, including various designs of face masks, face shields, swabs, field respirators, hands-free door openers and more. Working with our digital manufacturing partners in Canada, we built two industrial-strength domestic supply chains that can produce millions of critical PPE and upwards of 200,000 swabs per day to support Canada’s much-needed testing requirements.
This is a testament to the power of collaboration. As Canada battles the second wave, the need to embrace creative solutions to solve surge testing requirements, create a 21st century workforce and protect Canadians as our economy reopens safely has never been more apparent. Indeed, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada are already on the cusp of making these solutions a very tangible reality. With stable, made-in-Canada supply chains at the ready, we must also look at how digital manufacturing can help our recovery post-pandemic.
Manufacturing a More Competitive and Sustainable Country
A more competitive—and sustainable—Canada is within reach if we can embrace innovations like 3D printing to build on-demand supply chains across our nation. We must harness next-generation solutions to create jobs and reskill our workforce in a sustainable way. These efforts will enable Canada to continue demonstrating our leadership, ingenuity, and resiliency on the global stage.
Digital manufacturing allows us to reimagine our domestic supply chain and double down on a “Made in Canada” strategy. It will empower businesses to conduct rapid prototyping – test, finalize designs and iterate faster. 3D printing also levels the playing field, allowing smaller businesses to remain competitive with greater speed, more flexibility and enhanced ability to collaborate. In an entrepreneurial country like ours filled with small businesses, this is a huge opportunity.
Additionally, 90% of Canadians believe that it is important that governments create a sustainable ecosystem by encouraging investment in and development of socially and environmentally beneficial digital manufacturing technologies. 3D printing allows us to get to the point where we are manufacturing only what we need, when we need it, avoiding large warehouses and inventory that goes to waste. In some cases, 3D printing can also extend the useful lifespan of products, since organizations can print new parts that may not be otherwise available or economically viable within the traditional supply chain. In order to realize this future of a stronger and more resilient Canada, we must start with partnership between private and public sectors.
Canada is already a manufacturing powerhouse. Now, we have an opportunity to be a leader in more innovative, sustainable and agile manufacturing solutions. Embracing 3D printing will allow us to seize that opportunity. It will allow us to turn this moment into momentum.
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