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Seven ways 3D Printing helps a logistics organization become more environmentally sustainable.

Source: All3DP

Relevance to the Future of Logistics

Mass Personalization & Customization

In 2020 83% of consumers expected products to be personalized within moments and hours and today, with 27.6% of the world’s population buying products and services online, businesses need to rethink manufacturing and distribution to meet customer demands. By enabling mass customization of products, 3D printing brings value to a vast range of applications that benefit both industries and consumers. From automotive to aerospace and from semiconductor capital equipment manufacturers to healthcare providers, 3D printing is capable of improving efficiency by simultaneously producing numerous customized end-user parts. The increase in demand for mass personalized products provides an opportunity for businesses to adopt and leverage the capabilities of 3D printing technology. Strong and agile local supply chain networks will be needed to accommodate efficient distribution of on-demand mass personalized products.

Decentralized Production

Effective spare parts management is crucial for maintaining product uptime, especially with the shift towards servitization (when customers pay for the use of equipment rather than buy it themselves), to avoid high costs and reduce the risk of lost sales if machines stand idle because spare parts are unavailable. The irregular and still hard to predict demand for spare parts coupled with the need to keep stock for the duration of a product’s lifecycle (depending on the longevity of the product ) present a challenge for aftermarket logistics. Creating and storing digital part files on cloud and printing these on demand will give companies flexibility in managing the supply chain, reduce inventory, optimize warehouse storage space, and achieve shorter lead times. This can be attained by setting up decentralized local 3D printing facilities. A logistics company can take advantage of this opportunity and build servicing capability by, for example, partnering with local 3D printing services or producing spare parts in-house, and can use its supply chain network to deliver parts on time.

Environmental Sustainability

3D printing can play an important part in enabling companies to reach their sustainability strategy targets, as it reduces waste through the process of building a product layer by layer, rather than subtracting and discarding materials, which is the common process in traditional manufacturing. 3D printing is also an enabler for decentralized production and offers ways to optimize product design by eliminating the design constraints of traditional manufacturing, which in turn reduces material use. Increased investment in material research and development has resulted in the creation of environmentally friendly materials such as ABS and bio-based materials which help reduce the carbon footprint. Leveraging 3D printing therefore results in less need for waste logistics and reduces overall carbon emissions during the printing process. Within logistics and the supply chain, the benefits of advances in the field of material science (such as using more lightweight materials to build airplane parts and sustainable packaging material) also bring more opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint.

Challenges

Small-batch production size compared to conventional manufacturing makes 3D printing more costly and slower than mass production; this restricts widespread adoption across industries.
Another barrier to adoption is the limited range of materials that can be used in their raw state for 3D printing; in some cases it continues to be difficult to achieve the same material properties as in conventional manufacturing.
Concerns that digital design templates stored on cloud could be targeted by hackers, risking copyright infringement, remains a major barrier for many companies in adopting 3D printing.

This trend should be MODERATELY monitored, with some use cases applicable today.

Outlook

3D printing will remain a good fit for low- to medium-volume production. With the right level of planning, engineering, and material development, it can be seamlessly integrated into production. As this technology moves towards integration into all stages of new product development from conceptualization to production, in future we can even expect being able to print objects embedded with electronic chips and sensors at reasonable cost. This will help reduce reliance on third-party suppliers, meaning companies gain more control of their production processes, mitigating risk in the supply chain. The global 3D printing market size was valued at 15.10 billion USD in 2021 and is projected to grow from 18.33 billion USD in 2022 to 83.90 billion USD by 2029 with a CAGR of 24.3%.

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