3D Printing: Customers taking charge of the supply chain

The demand economy is disrupting every sector and causing those in the supply chain and manufacturing fields to be more innovative than ever before. A decade ago, consumers accepted waiting a week for their product but now with the infusion of companies such as Amazon and Alibaba, consumers are making their purchase decisions based on how quickly they will receive the product. In order to stay competitive in the marketplace, companies are turning to 3D printing to create their products quicker.

While it is true that manufacturing in certain locations can be low-cost, managing a global logistics network is not, especially as transportation costs continue to rise. That is where the opportunity for 3D printing lies. It is not surprising that analyst firm Canalys anticipates that the worldwide market for 3D printers and its associated materials and services will grow to $20.2 billion by 2019.

Supply chains are about to make a fundamental shift. Where traditionally supply chains followed something like the SCOR model (plan, source, make, deliver, return), 3D printing is innovating that model and putting consumers in the driver’s seat.

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3D Printing continues growing – and expanding

3D printing is arguably the most interesting, useful and potentially disruptive of the exciting array of technologies gradually becoming available. Its claim to being disruptive is a potent one: Supply chains are predicated on the idea of getting the parts and eventually the finished products from here to there. Indeed, moving things around pervades the process.

3D printing changes that dynamic radically. In some cases, it eliminates the geographical element. The supply chain becomes less of a chain.

3D Printing

3D printing is showing no signs of slowing down. Indeed, it is growing radically. This week, Wohlers Associates released the twenty-first edition of its market assessment. The category had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.9 percent last year. Its worldwide category finished the year with a value of $5.165 billion. The three-year CAGR was 33.8 percent. Perhaps the most impressive figure was the 27-year CAGR: 26.2 percent. That’s a long time to sustain yearly growth of a quarter.

Is 3D Printing the next industrial revolution?

It was in 1909 when Henry Ford, master of efficiency and standardization, famously said that a “customer can have a car painted any color…so long as it is black.” While the First Industrial Revolution introduced machines to replace hand labor, Ford helped usher in what was ultimately the principle of mass production; using those machines to produce large quantities of standardized products — an era that came to be known as the Second Industrial Revolution.

Today, more than one hundred years since Ford made his industry-defining statement, 3D printing is making its way forward in the mainstream and is allowing anyone to create customized products on demand at affordable prices. No longer do products need to be the same; we can now tailor products to meet our individual needs at little or no extra cost.

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The reason 3D Printing could be huge – huge! – by 2025 has to do with privacy

The first time intellectual property attorney John Hornick saw a 3D printer at work, he thought it was a joke. It wasn’t until a friend at Johns Hopkins University convinced him that the tech was the real deal that Hornick took a deep dive into how 3D printing machines could change the world.


Hornick’s findings are collected in the new book, 3D Printing Will Rock the World, and below he tells Inverse exactly how most people may own a 3D printer by 2025, no matter how implausible that seems now.

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8 Hot 3D Printing trends to watch in 2016

Even as the overhyped consumer 3D printing market continues to fall back down to earth, 2016 looks to be a breakout year for the industry as senior executives’ eyes and checkbooks are opening wide to the technology’s potential. The industrial market for 3D printing real end-use parts looks poised to begin its long growth run, with far reaching implications. 2016 will likely usher in 3D printing’s first “killer apps,” impacting both product design and supply chains. No matter what, 2016 will be a year when leaders across industries will be compelled to pay close attention to the emerging opportunities and disruptions that 3D printing is creating.

Here are eight 3D printing trends to watch in 2016.

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Here’s why 2016 could be 3D Printing’s breakout year

It was her days as a cross-training athlete that led Nikki Kaufman to an inventive solution for an annoying, if mundane, problem: Her earphones kept constantly falling out of her ears.

Normal_11-4-15_01Custom earphones can solve this problem, but they normally require a bit of sacrifice on the part of the purchaser—you have to show up at an office, have silicone deposited into your ear, clench your jaw for 10 minutes, and then wait around for a month or more for the molds to be made into bespoke ear gear. But Kaufman took a different route, first with a MakerBot in her own apartment, and then with a suite of industrial-size 3D printers.

Now Kaufman’s two-year-old startup, Normal Earphones, runs 11 printers from inside a factory in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, and is able to create custom-fitted plastic earphones in a few hours based on 3D files made from photos of customers’ ears. This month, she partnered with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff to create a line of earphones plated with 14-carat rose gold.

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How 3D Printing is transforming Industry – Infographic

While some companies are succeeding at producing high-quality molds, tooling, and manufacturing aids with 3D printers, others are still scrambling to figure out how best to incorporate the new technology into their systems. That’s according to this infographic recently published by PTC.

The majority of companies now have access to 3D printers, but not all of them are confident they are making the most of them.

That’s not surprising. Often the machines aren’t seamlessly integrated into the product development cycle. And to make matters worse, the journey from CAD design to printed artifact can require data to pass through multiple steps and often multiple applications before reliably building on the 3D printer tray.

Despite the uncertainty with this new technology, most agree that 3D printing is already transforming the way we manufacture products. That’s because it’s an approach that can offer more design freedom, faster time to market, lighter weight options for parts, waste reduction, and, best of all, cost reductions.

And the good news is that we’re quickly overcoming barriers to efficient design for additive manufacturing. Technology is beginning to connect printers directly to CAD systems, and as a result  it’s becoming easier to find and correct problems in the digital design before they become problems in the physical product.

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Don’t want to invest in 3D printing? Let someone else source the parts

Don’t Want to Invest in 3-D Printing? Let Someone Else Source the Parts In 2013 3Discovered was founded to become the first independent online exchange platform to facilitate the buying, selling, and fabricating of commercial-grade 3-D printed parts and products.

“We were intrigued by the notion that 3-D printing makes it easy to split a transaction for an object into its physical component (fabrication) and its intellectual property component (design),” the company explains on its website.

“Combine that with other 3-D printing benefits such as making what’s needed, when needed, where needed, and the freedom to design without constraints, and we saw an opportunity. So we set out to integrate these features by combining software and business processes with a network of multiple service bureaus in a commercial-grade cloud-based exchange platform.”

The company says that it offers a solution for any supply chain impeded by minimum order quantities, aging inventories, “long tail” products, legacy machines and discontinued parts.

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3D Printing steals the show at Euromold 2015

Euromold 2015 was an all-new conference and trade show in many ways, even though it is more than 20 years old. Euromold moved from Frankfurt to Düsseldorf and from November to September — but the biggest change was the increased emphasis on 3D printing.

Where once 3D printing was an interesting sideshow for a larger conference on molding and toolmaking, it is now the main event, with more than a third of all Euromold 2015 vendors active in additive manufacturing or other aspects of 3D printing. (The terms “additive manufacturing” and “3D printing” were used interchangeably during the conference.) The changes in date and location may have cost them a few trade show vendors (EOS and Stratasys were only represented by resellers), but the conference side of the event grew from one day hosted by Wohlers Associates to three days shared by Wohlers and the Society for Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

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3D Printing is changing the way we think

Surveys indicate that more than 30 percent of the top 300 largest global brands are now using or evaluating 3D printing (often with printing technology in-house) whether for prototyping and other innovation projects or in actual production of what they sell. Over 200 universities and colleges already offer 3D coursework in their curricula – covering aspects of not only 3D printing but also 3D scanning and design. To my mind, there is no question that 3D has reached, as Dartmouth’s Richard D’Aveni argues in a recent HBR article, a tipping point.

Even Terry Wohlers, founder of Wohlers Associates and publisher of the most cited research tracking the rise of 3D technology, is impressed. In a recent email exchange he told me: “We’re seeing a level of investment in 3D printing that we have not seen in the past — not even close.” As much of a champion as Wohlers is for the technology, he marvels at how the pace is picking up: “It’s really very interesting, and to some extent, mind-boggling, especially given that 3D printing has been around for morethan 25 years.”

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