Monday, October 6, 2014

Implications of 3-D printing in the industry

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. 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 under computer control.  This is a revolutionary production technique that would significantly increase automation in manufacturing considerably reducing the labor cost and dependence on work forces[1]. The benefits of 3D printing are as follows:-
  •        Customization- 3D printing allows for mass customization and the ability to personalize products according to individual’s needs and requirements.
  •        Cheap manufacturing-It eliminates the need for acquiring different raw materials from various sources and maintaining inventory. Cost saving occurs in shipping and packaging ,less human resources and less warehousing requirements.
  •       Quick Production – 3D printers can manufacture a product in a matter of hours so an on-demand manufacturing model can be implemented.
  •      Less Waste – Additive manufacturing not only uses less energy but also reduces waste to minimum and the product is also lighter in weight. Hence this technology is sustainable and environment-friendly.
  •      Better Quality- This avoids mass manufacturing faults but also aids in precise production, as it is computer controlled.
  •     Complexity – 3D printers nozzle can build an infinite number of complex figures from medical implants that resemble bone to aerodynamic parts in the space industry.[3]
In August 2014, GE (General Electric) invested $50 million to bring 3D printing to its manufacturing plant in Auburn. The plan is to use high volume 3-D printing to produce components for jet engines. The printer will be used to produce a fuel nozzle that will be used on the LEAP engine that is being developed by GE. Prior to this, GE had invested $3.5 billion on 3-D printing in its aerospace supply chain and expanded its factory floor fourfold. With the reduction of prices in this technology over the past few years, more manufacturing companies are looking at installing 3-D printers.[2]

This technology could in turn lead to a reversal of the trend of globalization, which has characterized industry and consumption over the last few decades. Globalization has increased the profitability of shipping lines, airlines and freight forwarders greatly owing to the transportation of consumer goods around the world. This could challenge the global transportation industry. 3-D printing will cause some redundancy and impact the traditional supply chain in the industry.


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