3D Printing in Toronto
A Comprehensive Guide to the 3D Printing Industry in Ontario
Ontario has had a long tradition of being a highly resilient Canadian manufacturing hub despite facing a number of recent challenges. In the past decade, Ontario has been faced with a pandemic, free trade agreements with the United States, a financial crisis as well as increased competition from overseas manufacturing. However this has all failed to harm Ontario's manufacturing sector which continues to thrive thanks to their continued focus on innovation and adoption of new manufacturing technology. Today, half of all manufacturing jobs in Canada are in Ontario and the greater Toronto area. While these numbers have declined year over year since 2003, many manufacturers have increased their investment in 3D printing, demonstrating confidence in the future of the technology. This investment in lean manufacturing and process automation has allowed Toronto’s 3D printing sector to grow rapidly, despite an overall decline in manufacturing jobs. Approximately 161,343 people are currently employed in 3D printing-related jobs, up from 68,200 five years ago, with an average growth rate of 11.28% per year. 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing technology has become an integral part of the factory of tomorrow resulting in fewer people needed on the shop floor to operate and manage machinery.
Confidence in 3D printing technology has increased significantly, with major Toronto based manufacturing companies turning to 3D printing not just for prototypes, but for functional part manufacturing. This has led to a number of unique growth opportunities for Toronto businesses who have adopted 3D printing either in-house or through outsourcing to local 3D printing service bureaus like Forge Labs.
Mitigating Supply Chain Challenges
Toronto 3D Printing companies were praised in 2020 for their success in mitigating supply disruptions and lockdowns due to covid 19. Thanks to the relative agility, customizability, flexibility, and the resiliency of 3D printing’s shorter supply chain, manufacturers like Forge Labs were able to generate a great deal of optimism for the future of additive manufacturing and demonstrate the value of 3d printing throughout the supply chain. Traditional manufacturers were much less resilient to the challenges of covid due to their need to retool and modify their assembly lines. Conversely, 3D printing allows for single step manufacturing with low setup costs and preprocessing required, yielding significant cost savings in setups, logistics and material costs required for customized goods.
One of the key areas of focus for Ontario’s public policy has been increasing sustainability as the province embarks on a cleantech revolution. The simplicity of 3D printing supply chains allows many products to be manufactured closer to home, reducing the distance goods must travel. As products can be produced on-demand at lower quantities, there is less risk of overproduction resulting in waste. Geometries can be produced using less material, making them lighter, and easier to transport, further decreasing transportation costs and material usage. Finally, the flexibility of 3D printing allows for old broken industrial equipment to be easily repaired & restored rather than disposed of entirely when replacement parts go out of production. Together, the various sustainability advantages enabled by 3D printing have helped Toronto companies be more efficient with their resource use.
Improving Part Performance
High performance 3D printing materials have allowed engineers and designers in Toronto to make significant improvements to designs normally limited by traditional manufacturing constraints. 3D printing has become a catalyst in enabling more design freedom and complex parts. This has allowed designers to simplify assemblies and produce lighter parts with the help of new cutting edge design software that takes advantage of the freedom that 3D printing provides. Designing and manufacturing complex 3D printed parts has never been easier, with software enabling efficient generative and algorithmic design to improve part performance, optimize assemblies and create stronger and lighter parts. For example, Aerospace engineers in Ontario have been experimenting with creating more complex lattices to reduce the weight of parts while simultaneously increasing safety, as the lattice features also act as shock absorbers. This innovation in part geometry has tangible benefits as every kilogram of weight saved on an aircraft can result in up to $25,000 of annual savings in fuel.
Improving Inventory Management
The recent fragility of international supply chains has undermined many companies' willingness to engage in just-in-time manufacturing. However, the relatively simple, decentralized and robust network of 3D printing companies across the Greater Toronto area has allowed organizations to rekindle trust in their supply chains, allowing them to once again reduce inventory carrying costs, rapidly iterate on designs and locally manufacture critical components, all in the face of global supply chain disruptions. A just-in-time strategy eliminates overproduction, reducing carrying costs and the risk of accumulating unusable inventory. It allows companies to make smaller investments therefore reducing supply chain risk.
Leveraging a Skilled Ontario Workforce
As manufacturing in Toronto becomes more high tech, it will require a more skilled workforce with knowledge of design, software, AI, machine learning, hardware, and data science. Today, we see an increase in the need for talented employees with a broad knowledge of manufacturing processes and soft skills as automation takes over redundant and labor intensive tasks. 3D printing leverages the talents of the highly educated Toronto workforce much better than traditional manufacturing.
Toronto and Ontario have played an important role in automotive manufacturing, and the potential for 3D printing to positively impact the future of this industry has become a focal point for investors. Given its ability to reduce production lead times, facilitate small batch production, and increase design flexibility, it’s no surprise that manufacturers in Ontario have increased their adoption of 3D printing. Additive manufacturing decreases the risks of research and development and allows companies to be more adaptive, which will go a long way to increasing the pace of technology innovation in Canada.