Model advances understanding of incorporating 3D printing into supply chains

Getting spare parts where they need to go in a quick, reliable way is a logistical challenge for military and industrial supply chains. Researchers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and North Carolina State University have developed a computational model to help determine how best to incorporate additive manufacturing (AM) technologies into these spare parts supply chains.

several 3d printers are lined up on a workbench; one of them is printing an object

AM technologies, or “3D printers,” hold tremendous potential for alleviating some of the logistical challenges associated with providing spare parts when and where they are needed. However, AM technologies can be expensive and tricky to transport. They also require personnel who have specialized training. What’s more, spare parts supply chains can be particularly complicated, because there is usually intermittent demand – meaning you likely don’t know when you’ll need to provide a particular part or how many parts might be needed at any point in time.

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‘When you find yourself 3D printing thousands of parts per week, you gain the kind of learning typically very few of your super users have’

It’s been quite a year. 

One of struggle, one of anguish, one of a technology that may have previously failed to live up to such lofty promise, perhaps now finding its role in the manufacturing landscape.

Though there were plenty of businesses in the 3D printing industry that had significant issues to encounter – GE in its AM-related goodwill impairment charges or Stratasys and 3D Systems in their workforce reductions – the technology itself comes out of 2020 with an enhanced reputation.

Nexa3D COVID app

It was responsible for millions of parts produced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to alleviate slightly the pressure that medical professionals and procurement personnel were under, while allowing manufacturers to pivot from what they typically produced to what, in that moment, we needed them to.

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3D Printing in the Supply Chain Industry Is Booming Across the Globe by 2025

“3D Printing in the Supply Chain Market – Global Industry Trend Analysis 2012 to 2017 and Forecast 2017 – 2025” is the latest addition to MarketResearchReports.Biz industry research reports collection.

The global 3D Printing in the Supply Chain Market, which is extensively assessed in the report contemplates the best need development angles and how they could affect the market over the figure residency under thought. The experts have taken careful endeavors to thoroughly evaluating every development factor of the 3D Printing in the Supply Chain Market, other than indicating how certain market restrictions could represent a danger to players in the coming years. In addition, the report additionally gives data on top patterns and openings and how players could take advantage of them to take up the difficulties in the market.

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Making the virtual a reality with additive manufacturing

The efficiency-enhancing benefits of 3D printing/additive manufacturing can deliver many quantifiable advantages for supply chain managers.

Engine Engineering Equipment633860

The efficiency-enhancing benefits of 3D printing/additive manufacturing (AM) can deliver many quantifiable advantages for supply chain managers. Previously, I talked about its ability to simplify the supply chain via the production of complex parts. Another key aspect of AM that can deliver even more significant efficiencies within supply chains, is its ability to enable the use of virtual/digital inventories. This is quite literally the ability to access and pull parts from a digital (rather than physical) inventory and effortlessly 3D print them anywhere at any time in the exact quantity desired. The digital inventory can be stored on a local disk, in a central disk or even in the cloud.

This has several positive implications, such as cost savings that arises from eradicating the need for large physical inventories. Let’s face it, physical inventory is the weak spot in any supply chain; it has no benefits beyond the availability of parts and is a burden for companies to pay large sums of money in order to maintain it. From a logistics perspective, using AM with virtual inventories cuts out the headache and costs of balancing excess and shortages in physical inventory at individual locations. Indeed, the logistical benefits are even greater as virtual inventories simplify and streamline the distribution network at the geographic level. Think about it – there’s no longer any physical inventory, which means the traditional central-to-region-to-local distribution model is eradicated, as is the need to do projections, which have to be exact, lest the company suffers from more delays and more costs. In contrast, working digitally takes no time at all and is much cheaper.

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Material world: Upholding supply chain efficiencies with additive manufacturing

Within the supply chain itself, the efficiency-enhancing benefits of additive manufacturing can deliver many quantifiable advantages for supply chain managers.

Most people have heard about 3D-printing and its industrial application: additive manufacturing (AM). The mainstream media has occasionally highlighted the technology’s more off-the-wall and outlandish applications, but in the industrial world, AM is impacting companies several sectors. This affects those companies’ supply chain as well. Indeed, within the supply chain itself, the efficiency-enhancing benefits of AM can deliver many quantifiable advantages for supply chain managers. Each advantage, from simplifying processes, through reducing bottlenecks to ultimately decreasing costs is a column in and of itself, but here I’ll just give a taste of the technology’s timely relevance for supply chain managers.

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Current geo-political trends are very much in sync with AM — especially when talking about cross border trade and governments’ efforts to increase local manufacturing. Physical parts held up in transit are a threat for just-in-time production and local manufacturers.

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Many companies stuck in planning phase of supply chain digitization

Man using tablet with logistics hub in background and graphics overlaid representing supply chain concepts

Even companies with the best-laid plans for supply chain digitization often struggle to achieve their goals, and recent Capgemini research provides some insight into the various factors holding some businesses back. The study, which suggests that many businesses remain stuck in the planning phase of digital transformation, offers several useful takeaways.

Released in December, “The Digital Supply Chain’s Missing Link: Focus”report surveyed more than 1,000 supply chain executives in the consumer products, manufacturing, and retail fields.

Key Survey Takeaways

The opportunity for cost savings was the primary motivator for the executives interviewed, with 77% saying that this impacted their decision in aiming to digitally transform the supply chain. Increasing revenues (56%) and supporting new business models (53%) were also cited.

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What is the business case for 3D printing in the supply chain?

In Influencers Roundtable, we bring together voices from consulting firms to share how they perceive various emerging technologies. The answers below have been edited for clarity and length.

The rise of 3D printing has not gone unnoticed in the supply chain.

Companies like HP, Boeing and Adidas are using it to make niche parts or reduce their lead times. Others, like UPS, are setting up business services around the tech, so companies can outsource startup costs.

The technology has been around for years, so what it so popular now? We asked consultants:

What is the business case for 3D printing in the supply chain?

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Link3D launches post-processing management technology to optimize 3D printing supply chains

LINK3D, a New York-based 3D printing software provider, has launched its Post Processing Management Technology for additive manufacturing at Formnext.

The Post Processing Management & Work Plan tool. Image via Link3D.

Contributing to the company’s Additive Manufacturing Execution System (AMES) & Additive Workflow Software, the Post Processing work management and scheduling tools are designed to optimize downstream manufacturing processes within a 3D printing supply chain.

“With dynamic routing and smart scheduling algorithms, Link3D aims to drastically improve the operational efficiency of additive production, particularly for OEM’s looking to adopt series production,” said Vishal Singh, Co-Founder and CTO of Link3D.

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What 3D Printing means for your supply chain

3D printing is going beyond prototyping to help transform the customer experience.

When you think of innovations that 3D printing has brought to the supply chain, dentistry might not be the first industry to spring to mind. But 3D printing is revolutionizing the manufacturing of custom transparent orthodontic braces and transforming the customer experience.

Courtesy of Align Technology

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers are used to create Align Technologies’ patient-specific Invisalign aligners. Every day, 3D printing is used to produce 150,000 custom molds based on a 3D digital model of a patient’s teeth, around which their braces are formed. These digital methods bring speed and agility to the process, which is made even more efficient by printing multiple molds simultaneously.

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Five technologies disrupting the supply chain

In many ways, the supply chain has always existed as a fluid, evolving system. It has a long history, and is also a necessary component of our modern economy. Although it’s easy for a supply chain manager to become accustomed to the nuances of the current supply chain, it’s wise not to get comfortable — there are plenty of major disruptions ahead.

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5. 3D Printing

It wasn’t long ago when the current generation of 3D printers was seen as nothing more than niche products. The small size of the hardware, coupled with low quantities of raw materials, relegated these devices to custom products and small production runs.

But times are changing. GE already has a plan to 3D-print 40,000 jet fuel nozzles by 2020. They’re so confident in the future of 3D printing that they’ve invested $1 billion into the technology in 2016 alone — and they’re planning to invest another $1 billion over the next few years.

Other brands — from nearly every industry imaginable — are also exploring 3D printing. UPS is in the midst of launching more than 60 facilities across the U.S. to fulfill a new parts-on-demand printing service.

[…]

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