Oct 6, 2020 Viewed: 171 Tag: 3dprinting  

Why 3D printing subverts the traditional supply chain model ?

In today's market environment, manufacturing competition is no longer limited to competition between individual enterprises, but competition between supply chains. To gain an advantage in competition, new changes in the supply chain and resource integration must be implemented. The so-called supply chain management refers to the planning, coordination and control of the logistics, capital flow and information flow between various enterprises and departments in the supply chain to improve the efficiency of supply chain operations, reduce operating costs and maximize benefits. Its purpose is to more economically convert raw materials into components for assembly, and deliver the final product to consumers quickly and at low cost. You may ask, what does this have to do with 3D printing?


01 3D printing changes the supply chain model

In fact, after in-depth understanding, it is not difficult to find that the development and application of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data, robotics and artificial intelligence are at most some kind of optimization of the existing supply chain. 3D printing is very different. With its rapid development and large-scale adoption, the traditional supply chain model will usher in disruptive changes!

Below, we will understand the impact of 3D printing on the traditional supply chain model from the three links of order management, manufacturing and logistics distribution:

I Order management

Supply chain activities often focus on order fulfillment. Order accuracy will have a direct impact on the company's operating costs and customer satisfaction. The large-scale adoption of 3D printing technology will completely change the traditional order collection mode and realize customization. For example, American Shapeways is located in New York and is a platform for providing customized 3D printing services online. Its future factory has 50 industrial-grade 3D printers, collects customer needs through social media such as Facebook, and accepts the customer’s three-dimensional design solutions within a few days. Complete the order before sending it to the customer.

II Manufacturing

The traditional parts production mode not only requires the development of additional tools and molds, but also causes a lot of material waste and inventory accumulation. 3D printing can promote the optimization of cost, quality and production cycle, greatly simplify the supply link and quality control of complex parts. For example, the United States Daimler (Daimler) has used nearly 3D printed auto parts, including 780 common parts and 150 spare parts. Using 3D printing technology, Airbus successfully completed the manufacture of more than 1,000 aircraft cabin interior parts, and all of them were successfully applied to the A350 XWB model.

III Logistics and distribution

In the traditional product supply chain distribution link, since the manufacturing end is usually far from the consumer end, it is necessary to build a central distribution center and a regional distribution center for distribution. Not only is the investment cost high, but the daily operation is also complicated. Because 3D printing can adopt the mode of micro-factory, it is possible to lay out production around the product consumption area, minimize the cost of long-distance transportation, and shorten the length of the supply chain. For example, Local Motors in the United States uses 3D printing technology to limit the production of vehicles to local micro-factories to the utmost extent, simplifying logistics and distribution, and meeting local customers’ needs with low cost and high efficiency. The US military uses 3D printers to quickly manufacture the required parts, which can be completed within a few hours. However, if the demand is fed back to the supply station thousands of miles away in the traditional way, and then the parts are transported to the theater, it will take several days or even longer.


Today, many companies have begun to use 3D printing technology to improve the level of supply chain management, optimize production, and then achieve agile manufacturing. With nearly 30 years of history, FDM technology is widely used, not only for product prototypes, functional testing, but also for manufacturing tools and final parts, especially in the industrial, automotive, and aerospace fields.

GKN Driveline is an automotive branch of GKN, providing drive systems and solutions for more than 90% of the world's automobile manufacturers. In order to maintain customer satisfaction, GKN Driveline needs to constantly find ways to shorten the delivery time and achieve this by using 3D printing in several factory floor applications.

Some time ago, the company's Florence plant in Italy installed the Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer. It is worth mentioning that this 3D printer has proved to be very valuable for production tools, can help GKN Driveline accelerate product development, reduce costs and re-create the supply chain.

Carlo Cavallini, GKN’s leading process engineer and team leader at the Florence plant, said: “With 3D printers, we have developed a tool that can significantly improve grease distribution and eliminate the need to clean up time-consuming oil spills. This simplifies the production of half shafts The cycle time is critical, enabling us to provide our customers with quality final parts."

The plant also uses 3D printing to create customized replacement parts on demand. The team recently 3D printed a cable bracket for the robot, saving a lot of time. According to the previous practice, it takes at least a week to obtain replacement parts from the supplier. They also 3D printed a custom arm end tool that can move individual components from one stage of the production line to another.

In China, the additive manufacturing laboratory of Eastern Airlines Technology Co., Ltd. uses ULTEM 9085 materials that meet the relevant requirements of FAA and CAAC25, and is used with Stratasys' Fortus 450mc industrial-grade 3D printer, becoming the first cabin interior to be 3D printed in China. Airlines in commercial airliners. The laboratory has developed many cabin interior components, including seat armrests, door handle covers, luggage rack locks, electronic flight bag brackets and newspaper racks. Through small batch 3D printing, China Eastern has solved the problem of long-term ordering and high cost of vulnerable parts in the past, while ensuring the safe flight of the company's fleet and improving the passenger's riding experience.

In addition, 3D printing will gradually integrate deeply with the aerospace spare parts market and change the supply chain system of this market. The aerospace field has a large number of parts and complex types. The 3D printing technology not only meets the flexibility of obtaining spare parts "anytime and anywhere", but also saves the cost of these companies maintaining a large number of spare parts, simplifying inventory management and reducing off-site transportation. demand.


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