Supply-Chain

Do you understand what 3-D printing will do for your supply chain?

You have probably heard about 3-D printers and that it could take more than a day to print a quite easy object. The 3-D printing technology will of course evolve and an example is the company Carbon3D http://carbon3d.com/ who just launched a printing technology which increase the output speed with 25-100 times compared to existing technology. With the speed of 3-D printing technology evolvement more new applications will be developed and we strongly believe that 3-D printers will play a major role in future supply chains.

Think about this for a while: What would it mean for your supply chain if you can basically print any part in any shape and in any material within a few minutes or even seconds just like you print a power-point presentation on your paper printer?

Examples of supply chain areas which could benefit from 3-D printing technology:

  • Prototype production
  • Tooling
  • Inventory
  • Shipping
  • Mass production
  • Spare parts

Prototype production

Already today rapid prototypes are developed by 3-D printers. In the future, you probably don’t need to buy expensive prototype tools or prototype parts that are shipped a crossed the world. You just print the prototype yourself in your design studio, fast and ready for evaluation.

Tooling

Will you need tools in the future or all manufacturing steps will be done by 3-D printers? Probably it will be a process where larger volumes will require fast mass production tools while custom unique series or smaller customisations are done by 3-D printers.

Inventory

A dream for any company is to have zero inventory and 100% delivery accuracy. Will this dream, become reality with 3-D printers? One thing is for sure, you will be able to heavily reduce your inventory by having 3-D printers installed printing different components and products used in your production steps. A pull production set up with very short lead times would become reality.

Shipping

Shipping is booming with the web shop market but what will happen to the shipping industry if you no longer need to ship all sub assemblies and parts around the world? The shipping industry could be heavily impacted when 3-D printers are more common in the production lines.

Production

Your production lines could be designed more cost efficient with reduced assembly steps via printed integrated assemblies, cutting labour expenses, inventory and increase the quality.

Spare parts

Spare parts normally drives huge costs and this cost can be heavily reduced if you can print your spare parts on demand instead of buying them in low volumes or keeping them in your inventory.

The speed of the technology development of 3-D printing will depend on how quickly the overall printing cost will fall, what kind of material you can print, the quality of the printed parts and of course the output speed from each printer.

How fast this will go, nobody will know but the change is hear with opportunities and challenges.

Are you ready for the change of 3-D printing?