3D Printing: Are your customers ready?

3D printing is here, and it’s poised to change everything. Research firm RnR forecasts a $30.19 billion market by 2022, with almost 30 percent annual growth. Advances in additive technologies and materials are opening incredible new possibilities for academics, health care, manufacturing, government, retail, you name it.

 They’re also blurring supply chain lines in a way that will challenge your customers.

 

Before 3D printing, traditional production methods meant products had a “design for manufacturing” process. 3D printing enables manufacturing for design. Anyone can easily and quickly prototype new products or give existing items a radically different look and feel. But there are also pragmatic uses. Consider a power plant that depends on turbine blades, which need to be replaced from time to time at great expense. By using 3D printing to repair some blades, the utility no longer needs to buy as many new ones.

This is great for the customer, terrible for the blade maker. That’s what happens when the line between manufacturer and customer blurs.

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Big changes coming to the supply line, just not where you thought they’d be

Self-Driving TruckWhen talking about exciting new advancements that are coming to the supply chain, the discussion will always usually end up focused around 3D printing. Rightly so, as the 3D printer has opened up new opportunities never before possible in the supply chain. Rather than having to wait for a specialized part, companies can now print the part they need right on site. This can be a huge time and cost saver for companies involved in projects, but when looking at the overall supply chain worldwide, 3D printing is a pretty niche example. Even with 3D printers popping up everywhere, changing the way companies rely on the supply chain, there will always be limitations.

Sure, 3D printers might be able to print space habitats on Mars, but they can’t print everything and there will always be a need to transport an item(s) from one destination to another. 3D printing is revolutionary, but there is another absolute game changer about to deploy in the supply side that is an evolution; self-driving trucks. When looking at the amount of freight moved just in America alone, there was 9.2 billion tons (primary shipment only) moved by truck representing 67% of the total tonnage moved in 2011.

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What 3D printing means for your supply chain

A broader understanding of 3D printing’s value to the supply chain is increasing investment plans across industries worldwide. Gartner research found that 65% of supply chain professionals are using or will invest in 3D printing over the next 2 years as they recognise its ability to produce product and augment manufacturing operations.

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The first 3D printing technology was invented 30 years ago. Over time more uses of 3D printing throughout the supply chain have been developed, especially in aerospace, healthcare and general industrial manufacturing. For example, 3D-printed personalised medical devices—hearing aids, dental implants and braces, and prosthetic limbs—are more common than many people realise. Recent advances in hardware, software and materials are making 3D printing a more viable process across the supply chain even as its adoption remains low.

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Can 3D printing spark a green revolution in consumer products?

With 3D printers becoming increasingly accessible, less expensive, and able to create objects out of a range of materials, the additive manufacturing industry is poised to change the way we think about the goods we produce. And with this new technology comes questions about the implications—how will it affect people, the environment?

John Hornick, partner and litigator with the Finnegan IP law firm and author of 3D Printing Will Rock the World, believes that 3D printing will “herald a green industrial revolution.” TechRepublic talked to Hornick to learn four reasons why.

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3D printing technology payoff beyond imagination

Skeptical about all the hype around 3D printing technology? We ain’t seen nothin’ yet, says SearchCIO columnist Harvey Koeppel.

The buzz about 3D printing comes with the usual pontification that occurs every time a new technology passes the novelty stage into the realm where real money can be made. Canalys, a market research firm, predicts the global market for 3D printers and services will grow from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $16.2 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 45.7%.

Thirty-two years after Charles Hull created the first functional 3D printer, pundits are hailing the “new” technology as everything from disruptive innovation to the next Industrial Revolution. But you won’t find me badmouthing the Johnny-come-lately labels. Personally, I believe the current descriptions vastly underestimate the potential impact of 3D printing technology and its inevitable derivative technologies.

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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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Military 3D printing applications to transform the industry

It is no secret that all branches of the United States military have been keeping a close eye on 3D printing technology. With the variety of uses across all industries, 3D printing has proven its versatility. Besides the ongoing research in a number of directions, such as 3D printing of replacement bones, battle armor, and vehicle parts, the Navy has already successfully tested ballistic missiles containing 3D printed components.

According to Business Insider, new interest is being shown in the field recently, as many patents on the original technology are expiring, thereby allowing for competition that will result in better quality products at a much lower cost. The first major patents expired in 2009 allowing new printers capable of using metal, wood, and fabric to become more available.

The US military is already investing heavily into research to print uniforms, synthetic skin and food, said ISH Technology analyst Alex Chausovsky.

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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.

Air New Zealand prints 3D cocktail trays

Air New Zealand is getting set to explore the innovative possibilities of 3D printing.

The Auckland-based carrier announced last week that the process could be ideal for cutting manufacturing costs and controlling replacement stock.

For the moment Air New Zealand, in collaboration with the Auckland University of Technology, has settled on producing cocktail trays for its business class passengers.

The technology typically uses a digital process to produce a completely integrated part-combination object as a single finished product by creating ‘layers’ of material.

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