Forget costly prototypes, traditional textile manufacturing, product recalls, and the like. 3D printing is about to turn the entire retail industry on its head.
A precise form of additive manufacturing, 3D printing can create a product from almost any material at mass scale, generating large quantities while individually tailoring each product to consumers.
In this final “Future of Retail” blog, we will discuss how 3D printing will change the way our clothes (and most consumer goods) are made.
Let’s dive in.
With the announcement that Adidas will be shutting down its much-hyped USA and Germany Speedfactories, highly automated production plants driven by robotics and 3D printing, and relocating them to Asia, the media has been quick to assign the whole endeavor as a failure.
The scale of the Speedfactory project was grandiose. The goal went beyond creating automated 3D printing factories that produced high-performance and customized shoes, to create a new manufacturing paradigm for the 21st century. One that reversed the tide of off-shoring, brought back high-wage jobs to aging economies, decoupled cost from complexity to allow new degrees of consumer customization, and greened the supply chain by relocating production from concentrated global pockets to distributed, responsive and local hubs. As the Economist wrote, “This factory is out to reinvent an industry.”
By 2029, Casca’s plan is to make your custom shoes in front of you via additive manufacturing.
Casca, a startup out of Vancouver, is looking to meld 3D printing and additive manufacturing, retail and footwear that will bring mass personalization to insoles and shoes.
The company, which recently raised $3.5 million from Khosla Ventures, has launched its first store in Vancouver. Casca’s system uses custom 3D printed insoles made from 100% recyclable materials, a digital app that scans your foot with a smartphone and shoes that are designed for better support.
Ultimately, Casca wants to fully scale its retail outlets by 2029 with 3D printers that will create your insoles and shoes on the spot. If successful, Casca will decentralize its supply chain.
Having a 3D printer on the factory floor has always been an intriguing proposition, as who wouldn’t want to bypass the supply chain entirely and whip up a quick replacement part, or even better, a brand new optimized tool or maybe even specialized robot grippers, right then and there? That is perfectly reasonable and could do everything from truncate downtimes and lead to safer and more efficient operations. Several manufacturers have found certain 3D printers as invaluable new tools that cannot only create prototypes, but also the jigs, fixtures and tooling to enable production.
The world of retail appears to be more reliant on technology to survive. But how has it affected the supply chain specifically? Read on as we explore how technology has transformed and helped businesses maximise their supply chain efficiency, including making deliveries speedier and keeping up with fluctuating consumer demands.
Apparently, consumers are getting more demanding, which has caused companies to react if they want to retain and attract customers. Many consumers expect convenience now that they know it’s possible. When they’ve received one service from a business, the bar is raised, and they expect that all their other favourite brands will do the same.
Tracking a package throughout its entire journey and getting the item you purchased last night the next day is no longer a luxury in retail for many customers. For businesses, this means that an efficient supply chain with a well-managed inventory tracking system is essential. And, when it comes to getting in touch with the business, customers expect instant contact through the channels that they’re most used to — Twitter, Facebook and instant messaging platforms.
Satisfying consumer demands for rapid fulfilment and customisation, a new study commissioned by Ricoh Europe reveals the vital role retail business leaders see new printing technologies playing in driving their competitive advantage. 73% of those surveyed believe investments in 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, directly lead to greater customer satisfaction.According to the research, 84% of retail leaders report a growing demand from customers for shorter delivery times and 74% say customers increasingly want more personalised products. With that in mind, 68% say new printing technologies provide a key source of differentiation for their business.
From Sarah Saunders at 3DPrint.com:
“I’m always a little wary about going to IKEA, because I know I’ll end up buying something I absolutely do not need. But I usually risk it anyway, because I really enjoy the experience of walking through that massive store maze, surrounded by beautifully furnished room setups and checking out all of the random clearance items at the end. 3D printing technology is being used more often in furnishings and home decor, and IKEA itself even featured a 3D knitted chair in its PS 2017 collection. However, the collection, which features experimental designs, is only periodic. But now, IKEA is introducing its first mass produced 3D printed home objects.
IKEA announced that it will be releasing the unique OMEDELBAR collection next year, in collaboration with stylist Bea Åkerlund. Jakub Pawlak, with Trader Free Range IKEA Poland, is in charge of the groundbreaking project.”
Industry is, of course, completely centered on supply and demand. And while there are many facets to manufacturing and business, few areas are as fast-paced or as fickle as the fashion industry. Our simple, and often (ironically) unattractive vanity promotes an entire economy based on greed and speed–as well as seeing who can replicate and wear Kate Middleton’s latest navy-blue dress fast enough.
Most often focusing on want rather than need, the ‘fast fashion’ industry encompasses the complete opposite of originality or creativity, as it’s about getting copies of quality and runway fashion into stores like H&M at breakneck speed. And up until recently not much care was given to the how of making these piles of clothes, but more so to the how fast. As the horrors of sweatshops have come to light in one sensationalized story after another, consumers–especially the younger ones–are becoming more discerning–and concerned. The millennial generation is making it more and more clear that they would rather look for alternatives instead of having the trendy clothes on their backs made by someone suffering overseas and being paid pennies, if anything at all.