Ultimation Industries, a manufacturer of conveyor systems, is one of 300 companies in the metro Detroit area t0 receive a free 3D printer as part of a local government program. The idea, akin to the federal Defense Production Act, is that, in exchange for the $20,000 professional-grade 3D printer from Markforged, small and medium-sized manufacturers promise to make things, such as PPE or whatever else is needed, in an emergency.

Although the program began in 2020 with PPE in mind, this army of agile manufacturers armed with 3D printers has been strengthening their supply chain resilience and lessening reliance on foreign products ever since.

Called Project DIAMOnD for Distributed, Independent, Agile, Manufacturing On-Demand, it is poised to become the world’s largest emergency-response network for 3D printing physical objects on demand. Locally, over the past two years, the program has helped small manufacturers realize cost savings and flexibility they didn’t know was possible with 3D printing. They’ve printed parts to keep their lines operational and versatile in the face of disruption and uncovered new business opportunities.

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