The advancement of 3D Printing and its impact on manufacturing and distribution

The transportation industry depends upon shippers’ need to transport products and components from one geographical location to another. Can 3D printing technologies eliminate much of that need?

3D printing technology is rapidly evolving and the advancement of this field could present a radical challenge to the transportation industry over the next 20 years. e-Commerce shipping volume may suffer as sellers recognize the capability to transfer their product designs electronically for 3D printing at a location near the consumer. To mitigate the risk of losing shipping business to electronic transfer of 3D printing blueprints, industry leaders need to incorporate 3D printing into their strategic thinking. They need to partner with both shippers and 3D printing service providers to optimize 3D printing use and logistics, and it is not unreasonable for these transportation companies to offer 3D printing services at selected customer-facing locations.

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The limits of 3D printing

Contrary to what some say, 3D printing is not going to revolutionize the manufacturing sector, rendering traditional factories obsolete. The simple fact of the matter is the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today. So instead of looking at it as a substitute for existing manufacturing, we should look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes.

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Additive manufacturing, or “3D printing” as it is commonly known, has understandably captured the popular imagination: New materials that can be “printed” are announced virtually every day, and the most recent generation of printers can even print several materials at the same time, opening up new opportunities. Exciting applications have already been demonstrated across all sectors — from aerospace and medical applications to biotechnology and food production.

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The 3-D Printing revolution

Industrial 3-D printing is at a tipping point, about to go mainstream in a big way. Most executives and many engineers don’t realize it, but this technology has moved well beyond prototyping, rapid tooling, trinkets, and toys. “Additive manufacturing” is creating durable and safe products for sale to real customers in moderate to large quantities.

The beginnings of the revolution show up in a 2014 PwC survey of more than 100 manufacturing companies.  At the time of the survey, 11% had already switched to volume production of 3-D-printed parts or products. According to Gartner analysts, a technology is “mainstream” when it reaches an adoption level of 20%.

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2015 Roundup of 3D Printing market forecasts and estimates

Manufacturers across a broad spectrum of industries including automotive, aerospace, dental, discrete, high tech, and medical products are all actively piloting and using 3D printing technologies today. Prototyping continues to dominate the reasons why enterprises pursue 3D printing, with the opportunity of improving new product development and time-to-market being long-term goals.

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How 3D printing is set to shake up manufacturing supply chains

3D printing has come a long way in an extremely short span of time. Initially built by Charles Hull in the 1980s as a tool for making basic polymer objects, today, the technology has spurred remarkable efforts in several manufacturing sectors; from building intricate aircraft and race car components, to human organs and prostheses.

Now, the wider business world is beginning to understand the potential of 3D printing for cost-effective, efficient and environmentally-friendly manufacturing. It is little wonder that analyst firm, Canalys see the global market for 3D printers reaching $16.2bn (£10.3bn) by 2018. With increasing adoption, the technology will revolutionise manufacturing as well as the supply chain and logistics processes which surround it.

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The Path Forward – 3D Printing and supply chain management

3D printing has captured the imagination of the media and the financial markets; prognosticators are predicting a fundamental disruption in the manufacturing paradigm, from mass production to mass customization. Are we finally achieving the “lot size of one” that Taiichi Ohno envisioned when creating the Toyota Production System? Will factories disappear as the “maker movement” drives demand toward custom-designed items created on 3D printers in the home? How will these changes affect the industrial supply chains?

The answers are “yes,” “no,” and “profoundly…in certain cases.” As with many other new technologies, forecasters overhype the changes while naysayers ignore the potential. Ultimately, we expect to see fundamental shifts in some supply chains but not others. To understand the phenomenon and evade the hysteria, we need only look at the history of a recent disruption: e-commerce. The potential of the Internet was initially overhyped, yet it has had profound-but not overwhelming-effects on most supply chains.

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3D opportunity: Additive manufacturing paths to performance, innovation, and growth

Additive manufacturing (AM) has exploded into public consciousness over the past several years. More popularly known as “3D printing,” AM is an umbrella term for a group of technologies that creates physical products through the addition of materials (typically layer by layer) rather than by subtraction (e.g., through machining or other types of processing).

DR14_3Dopportunity_1000x1375_cvrStories and perspectives appear in the popular press and technology blogs on a daily basis. Enthusiasts tout the prospect for AM to revolutionize manufacturing industries and the markets they serve. Skeptics point to the relat
ively limited number of uses and materials in current practice and to the relatively small impact these technologies have had outside of a few niches. Critics raise concerns about applications (e.g., 3D printed guns) and the inevitable intellectual property issues that the increasing adoption of AM technologies will create.

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Christopher Barnatt on “The Business of 3D Printing”

Christopher Barnatt, the British futurist, scholar, videographer, and author of 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution provides 3DPrintingStocks.com an in-depth (and fascinating!) discussion about the future trends, business opportunities, technologies, and adoption curves in the 3D printing industry.

christopher Barnatt adoption curves

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The impact of 3-D Printing on supply chains – Infographic

Jones Lang LaSalle EMEA Research demonstrates the impact additive manufacturing will have on the global supply chain.

Though its impact is still modest, according to Jones Land LaSalle EMEA Research, 3-D printing has the potential to totally transform manufacturing – and supply chains – as we know them.

In coming years, additive manufacturing will create a demand for smaller, localized manufacturing environments capable of custom production, shortened lead time and drastic cuts in transportation costs and overall carbon footbrings.

Here, Jones Lang LaSalle EMEA Research, demonstrates the impact 3-D printing tools along with the emergence of local and regional additive manufacturing hubs will have on the supply chain and the difference that will make from the traditional global system.

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