The promise of 3D printing has been in the background of manufacturing conversations for years. This technology’s potential to let companies create items on demand, with minimal factory equipment and an extreme degree of customization, has kept it relevant as the necessary hardware and software have improved. The fact that there hasn’t yet been a massive supply chain disruption due to 3D printing may be leading some companies to write it off. Leaders should keep their eyes open, however – further development could change the geography of manufacturing.
The use of 3D printing as a prototyping system, a behind-the-scenes option for product development, has kept it in the manufacturing ecosystem. Learning to produce finished goods with the same speed and ease currently used for in-development items could be the turning point for 3D printing’s impact and ubiquity.
Examining the marketplace
Current supply chain practices such as producing a high volume of goods in financially efficient factories and shipping them en masse may become less useful in the era of widespread 3D printing. The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply recently examined both the transformative potential of 3D printing and the reasons why the technology hasn’t yet had such an impact, despite being known and available for years.