Segmenting your spare parts supply chain for 3D printing

Understanding how to identify where to use 3D printing in a supply chain is one of the first key questions to address.


From warehouse robots (very real) to equipment that you control with your mind (in the labs), new technologies appear so regularly that it can be hard to separate real from science fiction. But in the spare parts business, 3D printing has become “here and now”. Beyond cars and machine tools, 3D printers are now making spare parts to order for the US Marine Corps, container ships, and beverage filling plants. PwC’s recent survey of German manufacturers said that 85 percent of the spare parts providers assert that 3D printing will play a dominant role in their business.

Long Tail spare parts Graphic MTO 3D Printing versus MTS.jpgAs you approach this new technology, one question to consider is how to segment your inventory portfolio to determine which spare parts in your supply chain are best suited for 3D printing versus other approaches.  In addition to supply-side considerations such as manufacturability, this requires analyzing cost-to-serve across alternative distribution approaches and demand-side characteristics like order-lines per year and demand volatility.  Then the spares portfolio can be segmented into three categories.

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3D-printed parts for Airbus: FDM technology to enhance competitiveness and cut costs

Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, a subsidiary of US digital manufacturer, Stratasys (Eden Prairie, Minnesota; www.stratasys.com) has been chosen by Airbus (Toulouse / France; www.airbus.com) to produce 3D-printed plastic parts for use on the “A350 XWB” aircraft.

Using Sabic’s (Riyadh / Saudi Arabia; www.sabic.com) flame retardant and high-performance thermoplastic “Ultem” 9085, Stratasys will print non-structural components such as brackets and other parts used for system installation. Stratasys said the project will help Airbus achieve greater supply chain flexibility and improve cost competitiveness while also reducing material consumption and waste. This, it said, will bring tighter turnaround times and lower inventory costs.

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Supply chain, logistics and inventory go 3D with additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing — popularly known as 3D printing — has been touted as the next big thing in manufacturing, but its impact will soon be seen in supply chain management.

Additive manufacturing — the creation of product parts or components from a digital 3D model — has gotten a lot of attention lately, and rightly so: It’s one of those ideas that’s simultaneously wildly innovative, and yet glaringly obvious.

Indeed, with the benefits of additive manufacturing causing a stir in manufacturing, and, therefore, in supply chain management, 2017 is looking to be a breakout year for the technology.

No longer a clever parlor trick for creating action figures and novelty items, additive manufacturing is poised to take on a serious role as a manufacturing alternative worldwide. In 2015, the additive manufacturing industry grew to $5.165 billion, representing a growth of nearly 30%, according to “Wohlers Report 2016.

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Beyond the Hype: 3D printing’s impact on the supply chain

A great article by Kent Firestone of Stratasys summarising the many areas where 3D printing is affecting supply chains.


Stratasys 4 58d97a2b211ae3D printing has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until the last several years that its potential has been more broadly realized. During that awakening, there were many claims stating the technology would disrupt the supply chain. Although there’s no denying 3D printing is impacting the supply chain, the traditional supply chain remains relatively unchanged.

Before 3D printing can impact operations on a broader scale, there are challenges that must be addressed, such as equipment and material costs. And the conversation must shift from 3D printing’s technical benefits to its business value, thus highlighting its impact on the supply chain. As this becomes common knowledge, more and more companies can realize how 3D printing can give their operations an edge. Beyond the benefits at the macro-level, companies that incorporate 3D printing into their manufacturing processes are seeing tangible benefits across several areas.

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Carbon bolsters 3D-printing breakthrough with novel business model

Ford, BMW already on board; medical deemed biggest opportunity in years ahead

Carbon compressor rotorThe 3D-printing technology developed by Carbon (Redwood City, CA) has grabbed the attention of plastic parts manufacturers because it enables printing speeds that are up to 100 times faster than current additive manufacturing methods. Beyond introducing a new technology, CEO Joseph DeSimone believes his company’s innovation could open the door to new business models by offering manufacturers unprecedented efficiencies and savings.

The company calls its technology continuous liquid interface production, or CLIP. DeSimone has a simpler way of describing it, explaining that the Carbon process uses light and oxygen to shape a part as it emerges from a pool of resin. The company says this approach to 3D printing permits a faster, continuous process that produces parts matching the quality of injection-molded plastics.

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