Could airports be the next hubs for disruptive 3D printing?

Is manufacturing really slowing down or is it undergoing a transformation that can not yet be measured by traditional means? Robotics, drones, augmented reality and other technologies are transforming manufacturing in such a way not seen since the Industrial Revolution. But, in my opinion, one of the most disruptive forces is 3D printing. Not only could it disrupt the actual manufacturing process, but also manufacturing’s supply chain requirements with respect to inventory and transportation.  

3D printing hubs, if strategically located, could speed up delivery times and improve efficiencies while bypassing various political risks and trade barriers. Some stakeholders are already experimenting with the use of this technology, and airports may present an attractive hub for the technology given their position and connectivity to various supply chains. 

Many manufacturers including Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Boeing and Airbus have embraced 3D printing for years, often printing prototypes and hard to locate parts. Logistics and transportation providers including DB Schenker and UPS have also embraced 3D printing with DB Schenker, for example, offering customers the ability to upload their 3D templates, choose the material and color, view prices, order printing and arrange delivery. DB Schenker utilizes a partner network of startups and established firms for 3D printing and then DB Schenker delivers the items.  

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