Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Something You Must Know About 3D Printing Technology
3D printing is a new technology which makes personal fabrication possible. 3D Printing builds up layers of material (plastics, ceramics or metal powders) using a computer-aided design to create a three-dimensional product.  This allows to manufacture items with minimal human assistance, a large number of 3D printers could be a cost-effective way to produce any small product or part without a large workforce -meaning the manufacturer is able to move production closer to the end user at a low cost. Although duo to high cost, 3D printing technology is not a mainstream in manufacturing or design process, but the advantages from using 3D printers are so attracting and obvious that I believe it will be largely used in future and change the structure of supply chain, bring both opportunities and threatens to logistics companies and globalized manufacturing market.
3D printing technology will largely simplified the flow of supply chain.
When the 2D printing becomes mature, either using a personal 3D printer or relay on local services, the traditional supply chain will be changed. A typical supply chain is illustrated as picture 1, it includes outsourcing manufacturing part and international transportation part and inevitable warehouses.
And under using 3D printers, the new supply chain could be simplified as picture 2 in which situation producers and manufacture different designs and product parts locally. This modification bring outsourcing producing back home which eliminate time and cost on outsourcing and global transportations. Additionally, the characteristic of 3D printing also gives producers a capability to produce on demand of customers which can help reduce level of warehouse.
To summarize, the simplification of supply chain using 3D printing can lead to:
1.Shorter lead times
2.Reduced supply chain risk
3.Reduction of transportation costs
Facing the coming revolution of 3D printing technology, companies from all parts in the supply chain should consider the opportunities and threatens it may bring. First, to traditional logistic companies, 3D printing will cause a decline in the cargo industry, reducing the demand for long-distance transportation such as air, sea and rail freight industries.  The logistic companies which do not realize the coming revolutions cannot adapt to the new situation. As every coin has two sides, with 3D Printing, logistics companies could also become able to act as the manufacturers.
Some constraints of 3Dprinting are it currently only focus on small products manufacturing and the relatively high cost. And changing traditional manufacturing machines to 3D printing will also induce a high cost, this could also be a reason manufacturing companies hesitate to use 3D printing. How to better switch a traditional manufacturing flow to a new model using 3D printing without inducing high costs? what is the way out for logistic firms? And is there a possibility that when everyone has a 3D printing machine at home which leads to the extinction of manufacturing companies someday in future?