Tuesday, February 25, 2014

3D Printing's Impact on Supply Chain

3D printing as the cutting-edge topic in the manufacturing industry, is not only a revolution of manufacture, but also likely to be for the supply chain, which is the supplementary of manufacturing industry. After reading on several materials regarding the impact of 3D printing on supply chain, I will discuss the reason why 3D printing is expected to be popular, as well as some of the concerns of 3D printing usage in manufacture.

3D printing generally reduces the needs of supply chain, because middle products and assembly process are no longer needed. With 3D printing, only raw materials for 3D printer is needed and the printer could print out the whole product. In this sense, the whole supply chain would be reduced no matter offshore or domestic. Also, the storage of middle products would reduce, therefore the many international warehouse would eliminate. The time of transportation would also be decreased, therefore to increase the respond time for a product.

But in a more detailed sense, we can demonstrate how easily during 3D printing era for developed countries to withdraw the manufacturing processes from offshore. Previously, companies in developed countries mainly outsource manufacturing because of low labor cost in countries such as China, the Philippines or Nepal. With the 3D printer, however, the domestic manufacturing cost would be lower than production cost in developing countries plus transportation cost.

However, 3D printer does initiate some concerns. The current technology only allow very few products to be manufactured, mainly plastic ones. To replace the enormous amount of products we have now, 3D printer has a long R&D process to go through. 

Also, if the 3D printer is one day put into mass use, just like robots, will eliminate many working positions such as low-level assembly workers. High unemployment will impact on all countries yet mainly ones with low labor cost. This scenario would be prevented by leaders in those country. We could readily imagine how those countries hope to slower down the development of 3D printing technology.  

To summarize, the development and popularization of 3D print is going to be way ahead in the future due to policy issue and technological restrains, as well as the effect on the supply chain. Although once initiated, the change will be enormous.


1 comment:

  1. It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort in writing the blog. I am appreciating your effort.
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    Thanks for sharing such a nice post...


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