3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it is commonly known, is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Unlike printing a flat picture for example on a piece of paper, a 3D printer actually builds something in 3 dimensions. So to call it printing is a bit misleading. The device builds upward and outward with each progressive layer of material. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. 3D printing enables you to produce complex, functional, shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
What's Ahead For 3-D Printing
There is so much fascinating technology around us today. Everyone wants to believe the next one will be a game changer. The major interest in this particular technology is the potential of additive manufacturing to do much of a company's own manufacturing rather than engaging in trade to buy products from other sources. 3D printers capable of creating just about anything in color and multiple materials already exist and will continue to improve to a point where functional products will be able to be created. 3D printing has the potential to change the manufacturing world as we know it.
So How will 3-D Printing Affect The Global Supply Chain
This technology has the potential of transforming our global supply chain in a very profound way. How profoundly, at this point, is very unclear. Any supply chain begins with a manufacturing point. Then warehousing, inventory management and, of course, transportation arrangements. Now, 3D printing allows us to reduce manufacturing lead times, as well as transportation costs, and also reduce the carbon footprint associated with production and distribution. 3D printing shouldn’t be thought of purely for manufacturing since it could have much broader supply chain implications. The original applications were originally used for printing small numbers of simple objects made of one or two materials but that's rapidly changing. Its most promising initial contribution may come in a couple of basic areas.
Though mass customization, creating products that fit perfectly with the desires of one customer, is a very hot topic and trend, all of these elements represent a cost and quite an effort. This means you need to make sure it is right for your application and industry, and that the added value for your customer matches your effort. Manufacturing lead times and transportation cost savings can be erased quickly with inaccurate customer data requirements. Simple examples of this mass customization may be common consumer products like earphone buds, cell phone cases or sunglasses.
Spare Or Replacement Parts Market
Another significant advantage to 3-D printing is the replacement or spare parts industry. When the Maytag man, or whomever, shows up to repair your home appliance there is no need for inventory in his truck. Just a 3-D printer and some software. The same argument can be made for just about any similar service type industry.
What To Expect
The 3D printing technology still has some obstacles to deal with. There are implications for the digital supply chain to go along with the physical one since the intellectual property resides in the file from which the object is printed rather than the product itself. So the Logistics professional will likely have a legal duty in managing that data.
This means that in the future, we’ll need to really examine this data chain to ensure that the information it contains is securely transported and managed. This is where technology like blockchain would likely be useful. This is a great growth opportunity for the global logistics supply chain industry. This is also where the digital supply chain technology comes in. So you can see from our technology series there is a clear continuity of our information. We hope our readers come away with a working understanding of the emerging supply chain technologies and that Land Link Traffic Systems is aware of these technologies and their applications. As supply chain professionals we will continue to develop our data exchange offering, so that we can offer our customers a one-stop shop for supply chain solutions, be they physical or digital and ensure the integrity of the transaction from start to finish. To stay current on these technologies and more subscribe to our blog www.Land-Link.com.