3D Printing – The Opportunities For The Logistics Industry

3D Printing is the brand new disruptive technology that is taking the tech world by storm.  Many pundits are saying that 3D printing is going to change our lives, change the way we live, change the way we shop – in fact it’s predicted to change our future and, hopefully, in a good way.  We’re taking a look at 3D printing – what it is and how it’s likely to impact the logistics industry worldwide.

WHAT IS 3-D PRINTING?

3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing and has the potential be become the biggest disruptive development to industry since the introduction of assembly lines in the US in the early twentieth century.  3D printing uses an additive process to make a three dimensional solid object of any shape from a digital model – basically laying down successive layers of material in order to build up the shape.

WHEN WILL IT BE AVAILABLE?

It may surprise you to learn that 3D printing is up and running in a big way already.  Unlike other new technologies that are tried and tested before being brought to market, 3D printing is already on the market and being tested in real time, real world applications as the technology is still being developed.  One of the first organizations to offer 3D printing services is Shapeways which represents a truly innovative business model.  Anybody with an internet connection can join in, using Shapeways to design and create object and even sell them to others via an online Shapeways Shop.

SO – WHAT’S THE LOWDOWN FOR LOGISTICS?

One of the first to be affected by 3D printing will be the service parts logistics sector.  Currently redundancy is built into supply chains to enable parts to be dispatched to get machines up and running as quickly as possible.  With the advent of 3D printing, we can envision a scenario where a service parts engineer downloads a part design from an online library, prints it using a 3D printer and then fits it immediately.  Customer service really can’t get any better than that.

3D printing is here and it’s here to stay.  The impact on the logistics industry will be widespread and the companies that survive the onslaught of this disruptive new technology will be the early adopters – those who spot the opportunities (rather than the dangers to their business) and get in quick to take their business and services to a whole new level. 

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