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HP’s Innovation Summit: Empowering 3D Printing Amid Growing Business Demand

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HP’s first global Innovation Summit gathered company leaders and industry experts to discuss current and future trends in digital manufacturing. Underpinning the event was also a new HP global study examining how digital manufacturing technologies, like industrial 3D printing, can become viable solutions to accelerate production and transform supply chains. During the virtual event held on October 14, 2020, Global Business Executive and CNN contributor Ryan Patel hosted expert panel discussions to understand how advanced manufacturing technologies are helping disrupt industries now.

Throughout the past seven months, the COVID-19 outbreak has intensified the need to accelerate changes in technology to cope with broken complex manufacturing networks. Businesses, organizations, and governments around the world have been adapting to the drastic changes in supply chains, working practices, and social behavior by leveraging digital manufacturing technologies. Eager to discuss this worldwide transformation, Patel kicked off the summit with a one-on-one chat with HP CEO Enrique Lores. The Spanish business executive and company president since November 2019 discussed how organizations and individuals across the world are accelerating their own digital journeys and clearing the way for positive innovation.

“If, six months ago, you would have asked me, ‘Can you manage the company working remotely? Can you manage the company with 95% of employees working from home?’ I probably would have said ‘no, no way’. But we have done it, and we have done it successfully,” said Lores. “We are at an exciting juncture in terms of innovation right now. The physical and digital worlds are closer than ever before and this is a great opportunity for a company like HP, which sits at the intersection between those worlds.”

Throughout the panels, experts also explored the results of HP’s Digital Manufacturing Trend Report. Surveying thousands of manufacturing executives across the globe, the new study found that companies are increasingly investing in advanced 3D printing solutions that provide the agility, speed, and flexibility necessary to grow their business and become more resilient in an ever-changing environment.

One of the key insights from the global manufacturing industry is that collaboration across sectors to embrace new digital manufacturing technologies is important; with four out of five companies indicating future plans to collaborate with government entities on digital manufacturing products. However, one of the limitations to implementing 3D printing technologies was reportedly the lack of a qualified workforce. To address this skills gap, 64 percent of respondents said they were willing to offer more professional training services, while 53 percent prefer companies, governments, institutions, and citizens to work together to make investments in educational and job-skilling programs.

Manufacturing decision-makers also see opportunities for accelerated innovation, recognizing that 3D printing is uniquely suited for mass personalization of new products, reducing waste, and promoting a more sustainable economy. In fact, HP’s 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing General Manager, Ramon Pastor, indicated that there is a general desire from the global manufacturing sector for greater supply chain resiliency, more manufacturing flexibility, increased speed of innovation, and stronger environmental sustainability. He also considered industrial 3D printing as a way to not only lower costs and go to market faster but as a unique competitive advantage that accelerates innovation for customers.

The study was conducted by SME Media/Research across three continents and nine geographic areas including Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the UK, and the US. It highlighted that almost all global respondents believed that digital manufacturing technologies can lead to economic growth. An overwhelming 89 percent of surveyed decision makers said they were looking to evolve their business models as a response to the current world business environment. Meanwhile, 71 percent already had plans to invest in digital manufacturing technologies in the next 12 months. Over four-in-five respondents planned to increase their AM investment.

HP’s Digital Manufacturing Trends Report Highlights. Image courtesy of HP.

In fact, during the past months, we have already witnessed a new dawn of AM investment. As Sarah Goehrke, Managing Editor of Fabbaloo and former Editor-in-Chief at 3DPrint.com, described during one of the panels, there have been over a dozen multi-million investment rounds for 3D printing companies, merger and acquisition activities, and new AM sectors of excellence opening. All of this, said Goehrke, is a testament to the money that people are putting into AM because they see a future in it.

The “Disrupting Industrial” panel also brought together HP executive leaders including Jon Wayne, Head of Global Commercial Business 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing HP, and Lihua Zhao, Global Head of 3D Labs, and industry expert Ken Burns, Vice President Commercial of Forecast 3D, to discuss how AM has demonstrated that it can deliver on a global scale, with rapid design and production through dynamic digital supply chains.

“There is no one industry that will drive innovation in additive manufacturing because we believe that additive crosses multiple industries, and the biggest driver that we are seeing now is to create resilience in supply chains. What we’ve seen in the last six months has reinforced that,” said Wayne. “Customers or brands that can differentiate their product with personalization are the ones that are really going to jump into this, feet first. We are also seeing a lot of local governments and country governments taking big interest in additive manufacturing, driven because of what has happened over the last few months and trying to look at manufacturing strategies inside their countries.”

Discussing the results of the HP Digital Manufacturing Trends report, the panel agreed that essential technology like 3D printing and digital manufacturing is a viable, long-term solution for accelerating production, transforming supply chains, and will drive a digital manufacturing future.

Precise and reliable dispensing helps scientists in researching new antibiotics, cell-based assays, enzyme profiles, and other rapid testing. Image courtesy of HP/Jeff Harris.

The closing session took an inside look at HP’s innovation engine, HP Labs, and the leaders who are driving it forward. It highlighted the four main focus areas of HP Labs as it commits to innovating and reinventing itself as it has done for over 80 years. Particularly in four areas, security, 3D printing, digital manufacturing, and microfluidics.

HP Labs has worked to find ways to apply its core printing and 3D printing technologies to new markets and applications, such as life sciences. This has led to new HP’s microfluidics technology that is bringing innovation and new efficiencies to the serial dilution of pharmaceuticals, for drug dispensing and discovery, as well as susceptibility testing.

According to the panelists, healthcare is a great market for HP because it impacts all segments of society, and has many unmet needs from the clinical outcomes perspective. Andrew Bolwell, Chief Disrupter and Global Head of HP Tech Strategy and Ventures, described the company as looking to bring together its microfluidics platform and print capabilities to create digital ecosystems for prevention and improved effective treatments. Examining the potential for manufacturing innovation going forward, both Bolwell and his fellow panelists, Trevor Hawkins, Chief Disrupter and Global Head of HP Tech Strategy, and Sue Richards, Global Head of HP’s Print Microfluidics, healthcare is a great market for HP’s microfluidics technology, as it impacts all segments of society but still has many unmet needs from a clinical outcomes perspective. Finally, Bolwell described the company’s technology, scalability, and trusted brand as a winning solution to face a future that will transform exponentially in the next decade. 

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