Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, is a rapidly developing technology that has the potential to transform the manufacturing industry and global supply chain network. 3D printing is essentially a machine that creates objects seemingly out of "thin air". It can "print" hundred of different materials such as metals, plastics, rubbers and nylons that create various end products. A 3D printer can print anything form a simple plastic prototype, to stainless steel fuel nozzles for jet engines, as recently achieved by GE. Similarly to the traditional 2D printing methodology, the 3D printer needs a file that provides instruction, just like a Word or PowerPoint file. The difference with 3D printing is that the end product is generated from a CAD file of 3D scanner. After the printer has the specification of a product, it creates thousands of horizontal layers of the material(s) that will eventually accumulate to form the final product.

Today, the current use of this technology is mainly limited to prototyping and developing customized, small volume products. This can be attributed to the fact that at 3D printer is expensive and takes long periods of time to manufacture a product, depending on the product's size and complexity. For example, a printer with the capability to print a simple plastic object of a couple inches in length will take roughly 2-6 hours to produce. In addition, the printer will likely cost thousands of dollars or more, depending on its size and capabilities. Due to the time it takes for a product to print and the high cost of these printers, widespread adoption for use in large volume manufacturing and end user product development has yet to occur. Considering 3D printing's limitations, it has yet to make a substantial impact on the traditional manufacturing process and global supply chain structure. Though, as this technology grows, the prices come down and the production process becomes faster, the employment of 3D printing will go beyond the creation of prototypes and small volume production as it stand today.

Some see 3D printing as the next big shift in the global supply chain network. In recent decades, we have seen low cost manufacturing in China and other low-cost countries dominate manufacturing strategy, and more recently, near-shoring by countries such as the US in Mexico. So what benefits will 3D printing bring to supply chains and manufacturers around the globe? Once production speeds are enhance, costs are lowered and capabilities expanded, 3D printing could potentially have significant benefits for manufacturers and consumers alike.
Customized Production - The concept of 3D printing steers away from traditional manufacturing practices where a product is standardized and production is configured to create large  volumes of the same product. With 3D printing you can make individual, customized objects on demand. Consumers can give their input into what specification they want in a product and the 3D printer can make it possible, giving rise to mass customization over mass production.

Eliminate Waste - When utilizing "subtractive" manufacturing, where material is remove from a larger object to create the final product, this creates an abundance of waste material. 3D printing wastes no material because material is added to create a product, eliminating any left-overs. Application on a large scale would result in cost savings from the reduction of raw material required to manufacture a product.

Shorter Lead Times - The on-demand nature that 3D printing brings to the manufacturing process produces many benefits. If a product is needed on the fly-- a replacement part for example-- the manufacturer can create the product onsite, eliminating any significant down time in production due to waiting for a part to arrive. These printers can be set up locally and distribute customized products to the local population, thereby eliminating long lead times.

Lower Transportation Costs - 3D printing means you don't need a large factory with industrial-sized machines producing mass quantities. Manufacturing instead will be localized. As this technology evolves, producers can set up "corner shops" to satisfy local demand and produce a broad range of products. This will cut down on transportation cost and move away from the days of unpredictability of shipping overseas, high transportation costs and the need for complex logistics management.
Reduced Carbon Footprint - Considering the small carbon footprint and amount of energy required for production when compared to traditional manufacturing techniques, the 3D printing process can benefit both the environment and manufacturers overhead costs.

Share To:

Ken Ballard

Post A Comment:

0 comments so far,add yours