Encouraged by opportunities for greater customization, less waste, and more localized manufacturing and delivery. 3D printing will add new diversity to manufacturing strategies, with many combining, not replacing, traditional fabrication with 3D printing. Logistics providers can orchestrate complex hybrid manufacturing networks and utilize networks of 3D printers to offer new logistics services.
Key Developments & Implications
With the potential to revolutionize how and where many types of items are produced, 3D printing is believed to be one of the most potentially disruptive trends for logistics. 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing (AM) is likely to affect the logistics industry in the mid future when it is realized.
In 2019, the global AM market surpassed USD $10 billion and analysts expect it to double in size every 3 years. There will be more opportunities for logistics providers from 3D printing, namely growth in the scale and complexity of regional logistics networks as well as business-to-business (B2B) printing services and delivery.
While a world of widespread 3D printing is still many years away, there will always be a need to supply polymers and raw materials so logistics providers must adapt their services accordingly.
Regional logistics networks will expand as advances in 3D printing technology allow more product types to be made closer to the consumer. With only raw materials and digital blueprints traversing oceans and borders, products compatible with 3D printing will see significantly reduced transportation costs, customs duties, and the product security that accompanies long-distance transportation. There will be more nearshoring production facilities, adding density and complexity to regional and local supply chains, including freight hubs and last-mile delivery (see Multisourcing).
COVID-19 provides a glimpse of how AM could impact logistics in the future. With an unexpected spike in demand for personal protective equipment and ventilation machines, traditional manufacturing was poorly equipped to ramp up supply in a timely manner. Industrial and individual home users of 3D printers collaborated to create digital inventories of blueprint files and produce critical healthcare equipment. Local supply chains had to rapidly adapt their usual logistics patterns, delivering these new pieces of equipment from within communities, instead of from abroad, to regional recipients.
B2B 3D printing services can become the new future for the aftermarket supply chain sector, as AM is expected to massively reduce the need for inventory. As shelves are emptied and digital blueprints are instead stored as virtual, space-less inventory ready to be printed, an opportunity presents itself for logistics professionals. With large, open floor plans that are often strategically placed near hubs or customers, warehouses can offer virtual inventory services for storing digital designs, as well as real estate for hundreds to thousands of various 3D printers all working on custom orders of different amounts.
Questions answered in this report:
- What is the current state of 3D printing and how is this technology being applied?
- What competitive advantages can 3D printing offer to your organization?
- What are the crucial success factors for the widespread adoption of 3D printing?
- What are the opportunities for 3D printing in your future supply chain?
Talk to an Expert
Innovation Project Manager
Americas Innovation Center
Benjamin Perlson is an Innovation Project Manager, and his area of focus is on robotics and automation initiatives. Ben works to connect with startups and established vendors to help bridge gaps between technology groups and logistics professionals. A large part of his time is also spent working with our customers to understand their challenges and bring forward solutions to optimize their operations.