3-D printing, officially known as additive manufacturing, has the potential to become the biggest single disruptive phenomenon to impact global industry since mass production lines were introduced early in the twentieth century. With 3-D printing an idea can be produced directly from a computer design to a tangible product, skipping many traditional manufacturing steps. Additionally, manufacturing can take place anywhere in the world where the 3D printers are available. It is likely that this will cause new businesses to emerge and well-established businesses may fail2.
Manufacturing products using 3-D printing technology can change the traditional approach to manufacturing completely. It can for instance eliminate the need for expensive component assembly and creates the freedom to change product designs on the spot. Consequently, logistics operations and supply chain design will have to change. Products could be produced closer to the consumer markets (local-to-local), and especially for remote locations, 3-D printing could reshape the transport needs. For example: spare parts for machinery on board of ships could be produced on the spot instead of having to fly them in. All these on-the-spot productions could drastically decrease transport movements and thus reduce the negative effects on climate change.
3-D printing is the process of joining materials to make tangible objects from 3-D computer models. Usually 3-D printers build a product layer upon layer. The main markets where 3-D printing is already applied include:
Research on 3-D printing however is ongoing in fields such as food, metal/ electric components and building materials.
Although in the current form 3-D printing is a niche market, this innovation can have a strong impact on logistics. The main impact on logistics stems from:
The images show how drastic supply chains change when 3-D printing is applied. A traditional supply chain requires far more transport.
Supply chain with 3-D printing component
3-D printing is still in a development stage. In a position paper, IBM however states that companies should already take steps to see whether 3-D printing will have an effect on their business, because:
The actual implementation of 3-D printing requires users to purchase a 3-D printing machine, or to hire the services of a local 3-D printing service provider. To be able to produce 3-D printed products, computer models must be made thus 3-D software should be available. Alternative methods, which are being researched are 3-D copying machines that could scan an object and reproduce its shape. The equipment needed to scan the object should then be available as well.
Large-scale application of 3-D printing could have a major impact on worldwide manufacturing. In the current stage, 3-D printing is mainly applicable in a few niche markets, such as medical, automotive and aerospace applications. In these markets it is mainly used for other purposes than optimizing the environmental performance of products. Larger scale adoption of 3-D printing will allow for a better judgment of its environmental benefits.
Global, Mitigation, Freight, Technology
Robbert Janssen Robbert.firstname.lastname@example.org