3D printing – supply chain magic?

Imagine the time it takes to get a replacement part through a supply chain in a disaster zone or a naval vessel at war. Commercial organisations would keep a full range of spare parts near their operations however this is unrealistic in a disaster zone or on the front line during war. Far better if you can produce what you need when it is needed.

So how to overcome this conundrum? In an effort to overcome such scenarios, the aid community and some militaries are redesigning their supply chains by embracing 3D printing technology. Imagine being able to print components on demand, what impact does this have on your supply chain?

A recent article published in the Economist reports that an “American aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, took two 3D printers on a tour of duty. During the tour the crew devised and printed such items as, better funnels for oil cans (to reduce spillage), protective covers for light switches (to stop people bumping into them and inadvertently plunging the flight deck into darkness).One of the Truman’s maintenance officers reported savings of more than $40,000 in replacement parts, the printers cost $2,000 each”. The article also reports that “Israel’s air force prints plastic parts that are as strong as aluminium, in order to keep planes that date from the 1980s flying”.

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