DHL released its latest DHL Trend Report today – 3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains. DHL has been testing a variety of both 3D printing hardware and techniques for several years and has identified applications that have potential to redefine manufacturing and supply chain strategies. While the 3D printing market is estimated to grow between US$180 billion and US$490 billion by 20251, the report however finds it will not become a substitute for mass-production but a complementary process.
Matthias Heutger, Senior Vice President, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, said: “The DHL Trend Report ‘3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains’ recognizes 3D printing as a transformative technology. However, it is not a magic bullet that will render factory mass production and manufacturing obsolete. Its exciting potential lies more in its capability to simplify the production of highly complex and customizable products and spare parts – and this could bring logistics and manufacturing closer together than ever before.”
When a new manufacturing method like 3D printing becomes widely commercially viable, it breaks down barriers to market entry for thousands, if not millions of companies. TCT’s pages are full of stories of businesses that owe their success to semi- or fully automated additive manufacturing (AM). Innovative companies enjoy reduced costs for shipment of their creations to markets far and wide. Many other players also use AM to operate on the back of others’ creations.
Websites allowing sharing of CAD designs of physical objects are particularly popular, giving individuals or companies that already have access to AM devices all they need to “print” their own copies of others’ products and creations. Sharing CAD files and creating associated objects in this manner can of course allow private individuals to enjoy hobbies harmlessly, and can even spark creativity in those willing to invest time in creating their own designs.
3-D printing (3DP) is the process of making physical objects from a digital model using a printer. Although still in the developmental stages, the technology has advanced swiftly since its introduction in the 1980s, and is already presenting opportunities in new areas, such as in the custom manufacture of prosthetics, dental products and other medical devices or high strength lightweight precision automotive and aerospace parts that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
A 3-D printed model of Barrick Gold’s Turquoise Ridge mine in Nevada, US. Photo Barrick Gold Corp
Over the next decade, technology observers predict that the pace of change will intensify and more and more applications will be found as sophistication increases and the cost of equipment falls, following the now well-established curve for technology products.
Even though 3D printing has been around for a while, it has struggled to move past its reputation as a high-priced toy for techies.
UPS, along with partners SAP and Fast Radius, a Georgia-based manufacturer, have launched an effort to bring 3D printing full steam into the world of scaled industrial production.
Instead of producing a single trinket or a custom iPhone case on a per-unit basis, the partners have teamed up to print everything from auto parts to medical devices. All of this is done at scale with production runs numbering in the hundreds of units.
3D printing has captured the imaginations of engineers, researchers and manufacturers in ways that no other advanced manufacturing technique has done previously. In simple terms, a 3D printer can turn digital representation of an object into a physical object. Users of 3D printers can download digital 3D model files that can allow a 3 dimensional object to be printed. These 3D model files can be derived from existing objects by way of a 3D scan or they can be created independently of any real object through traditional Computer-aided design (CAD) techniques.
3D printing’s promise in terms of a rapid, sophisticated and cutting edge manufacturing technique is unequalled in the field of materials science and manufacturing. 3D printing will usher into the marketplace the next digital disruption, that of digital manufacturing and construction, a disruption that is undeniably gaining momentum.
3D printing service portal 3YOURMIND have announced a partnership with Dynamic Parcel Distribution in a bid to simplify the overall supply chain.
The collaboration is the latest of a trend in which logistic companies are integrating 3D printing into their everyday operations. As additive manufacturing has matured, its uses have expanded to the production floor. The software and hardware combinations make it possible to design a product and 3D print in a variety of materials with high resolution.
In terms of cost, additive manufacturing has already dropped below traditional production methods at low volume outputs. A shift that looks likely to continue.
As more businesses and individuals now own 3D printers, the transfer of goods is beginning to take place more in the digital space and less in the physical, meaning logistics companies need to alter the way they do business. DPD will leverage their wide-ranging delivery services to help 3YOURMIND meet the needs of customers, but both companies share a vision of 3D printing as a mobile service as well.
With all of its accomplishments – including world’s largest defense contractor, and a presence in all 50 states and 70 countries – you might think Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD) would already have mastered additive manufacturing.
But like manufacturers around the world, some of Lockheed’s experts are struggling to answer questions posed by 3D printing, according to Robert Ghobrial, additive manufacturing lead for the company’s training and simulation location in Orlando, FL.
“Should we invest in the technology today or wait until it’s faster and cheaper?” Ghobrial has asked himself. “Should we have a centralized or localized printing model?”
Ghobrial spoke at SME’s “Additive Manufacturing Applications: Innovations for Growth” seminar in October, at advanced energy technology accelerator NextEnergy, in Detroit.
He traced his work with 3D printing back to 2012, when his team received some MakerBot printers that largely went unused. Even as recently as 2014, he was mostly making trinkets from the Thingiverse digital design company, Ghobrial said.
It’s been a big week for shoes and 3D printing, as just yesterday New Balance released their (extremely) limited edition MS066 sneakers with 3D printed midsoles, and now Adidas has announced their innovative UltraBoost Uncaged Parley sneakers, made almost entirely from recycled ocean plastic and which owe much of their development to 3D printing technologies.
Just a year ago, Adidas teamed up with Parley, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about ocean pollution and plastic waste, to design a shoe that could be made from recycled ocean plastic. The result of that experiment was an impressive footwear specimen, which combined recycled plastic materials and Adidas’ 3D printed Futurecraft midsole. While the shoes marked a step forwards for sustainable footwear, they were not exactly retail ready, and were more significant as a concept shoe.
Now, however, Adidas and Parley have moved forwards once more with the unveiling of their UltraBoost Uncaged Parley sneakers, which go on sale next month and will be retailing for $200 a pair. Initially, Adidas will be releasing 7,000 pairs of the new recycled sneaker, but reportedly hope to have over a million pairs available within the next year or so.
From parts for fighter jets, to prosthetic arms and legs, and concept cars, 3D Printing is being used to manufacture a huge variety of items. And with its use on the rise, it’s putting pressure on organisations to reassess their manufacturing and supply chains.
The latest industry to come into the sights of the 3D Printing revolution is one that might surprise you – fashion. It’s not strictly a new phenomenon (it’s been over a year since these items first appeared), but it’s worth noting for a couple of important reasons.
Firstly, unlike in other industries, the well-known clothing manufacturers are at the forefront of the efforts. Secondly, the consideration of what this might mean for the fashion industry in terms of manufacturing and intellectual property.