DHL’s Trend Report on 3D Printing and Future Supply Chains

December 6, 2016 — Leave a comment

dhl-3d-printing-study3D Printing is an interesting invention which foresees some radical developments in the manufacturing and logistics space in years to come. It also suggests that Customs administrators need to monitor these developments as they may likewise have a profound effect on how the actors in this space operate, including possible changes to legislative and compliance models.

DHL has released its latest Trend Report – 3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains. DHL has been testing a variety of both 3D printing hardware and techniques for several years and has identified applications that have potential to redefine manufacturing and supply chain strategies. While the 3D printing market is estimated to grow between US$180 billion and US$490 billion by 2025, the report however finds it will not become a substitute for mass-production but a complementary process.

Ther report recognizes 3D printing as a transformative technology. However, it is not a magic bullet that will render factory mass production and manufacturing obsolete. Its exciting potential lies more in its capability to simplify the production of highly complex and customizable products and spare parts – and this could bring logistics and manufacturing closer together than ever before.

Also known as additive technology, 3D printing involves manufacturing products by layering heated plastic or metal injected from the nozzle of a 3D printer onto a plate to create a three-dimensional object, potentially replacing processes such as forging and molding at a fraction of the cost. It can lead to improved product quality, multiple products being made by a single printer, new types of products – and new supply chain strategies and models.

Factors currently limiting more widespread adoption of 3D printing – around since the 1980s – include lack of management knowledge, economic and technological issues. Many printers can use only one material and costs are still high for industrial-grade 3D printer. As well as facing warranty, liability and intellectual property issues, 3D printing needs to become faster, more agile and more advanced before it can become a core production technology.

Ther report highlights opportunities for companies to team up with logistics providers offering 3D printing. These areas include ‘spare parts on demand’, a model that would cut enterprise storage costs; ‘end-of-runway services’ for fast production of time-sensitive parts, and ‘product postponement services’ to increase customization options and simultaneously reduce lead time to the customer. Source: DHL

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