Access to Medical Equipment in a Pandemic Situation: Importance of Localized Supply Chains and 3D Printing
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The response to the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the weaknesses of the free trade system and failures of the traditional supply chains. Public health preparedness for future pandemics demands nation-states to increase their local production of medical supplies in order to reduce their dependence on third countries. Globally connected local production, enabled by digital fabrication tools, is arguably the best policy response to collaboratively address supply-chain vulnerabilities. 3D printing technology, which is the most prominent manifestation of digital fabrication ecosystems, can play a key role in enhancing the local production capacity in a time- and cost-efficient manner. This paper calls for an increased focus on local production and proposes a more systematic use of 3D printing capabilities to address shortages of critical medical equipment in a health emergency.