Covid-19 response of an additive manufacturing cluster in Australia

Publication Name

Supply Chain Management


Purpose: The sudden arrival of Covid-19 severely disrupted the supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Australia. This paper aims to examine the development of a geographical cluster, which, through the application of additive manufacturing (AM), responded to the PPE supply crisis. Design/methodology/approach: This longitudinal case study focuses on an AM cluster, which was developed to supply PPE in a responsive and flexible manner from 2019/2020. The study gathered data over three stages of cluster evolution: pre, during and post-peak Covid-19. Findings: The type and nature of exchanges between organizations involved in the cluster established important insights into success factors for cluster creation and development. Using an established complexity framework, this study identifies the characteristics of establishing a cluster. The importance of cluster alignment created initially by a common PPE supply goal led to an emerging commercial and relational imperative to address the longer-term configuration after the disruption. Practical implications: Clusters can be a viable option for a technology-driven sector when there is a “buzz” that drives and rapidly diffuses knowledge to support cluster formation. This research identifies the structural, socio-political and emergent dimensions, which need to be considered by stakeholders when aiming at improving competitiveness using clusters. Originality/value: Covid-19 has rapidly and unexpectedly disrupted the supply chain for many industries. Responding to challenges, businesses will investigate different pathways to improve the overall resilience including on-/near-shoring. The results provide insights into how clusters are formed, grow and develop and the differentiating factors that result in successful impacts of clusters on local economies.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access

Funding Number

CE 140100012

Funding Sponsor

Australian National Fabrication Facility



Link to publisher version (DOI)