3D printing has the potential for supply chain reinvention. Some of the critical factors of production that are affected by additive manufacturing include:
- Design complexity: Since 3D printed designs do not have to worry about “Design for Manufacturing” (DFM) or “Design for Assembly” (DFA), they can take on much more complexity. This empowers the designer to combine multiple process steps into a single design.
- Lead time: 3D printing has the potential to reduce process steps and assembly needs. With less number of parts needed and the “print on demand” functionality, lead times can get reduced to a great extent.
- Time to market: Prototyping becomes very easy. Prototyping cycles are shortened. This helps design validation and products are released for production much faster.
- Lesser materials: Depending on the fill percentage used in the design, the product can be made lighter without compromising structural integrity. This results in lowering inventory. This also has indirect benefits from lower transport cost, lower storage costs and overall savings from lower manufacturing footprint.
- Closer to markets: Due to lower labour content, 3D printed products can be made in “high cost” centres without much impact on costs. This means it is now possible to stay closer to your customers and have better quality products.
- Be nimble and agile: 3D printing helps create a close relationship between design, engineering, production, and marketing. This means product changes can be made faster. Customization is possible. Target segments can be extended.