DHL identifies potential for 3D printing in the supply chain

3D print could enable spare parts on demand solutions, product postponement services and 3D print shops

DHL identifies potential for 3D printing in the supply chain

DHL released its latest DHL Trend Report today – 3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains. The logistics company has been testing a variety of both 3D printing hardware and techniques for several years and has identified applications that have potential to redefine manufacturing and supply chain strategies.

The report ‘3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains’ highlights opportunities for companies to team up with logistics providers offering 3D printing. These areas include ‘spare parts on demand’, a model that would cut enterprise storage costs; ‘end-of-runway services’ for fast production of time-sensitive parts, and ‘product postponement services’ to increase customization options and simultaneously reduce lead time to the customer. Individualized direct part manufacturing and product postponement services, both led by customer demand for individualized products, could see manufacturing and assembly divided into stages with regional or locally located printers involved in the final production. Both would require completely new supply chain strategies.

Matthias Heutger, Senior Vice President, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, said: “The DHL Trend Report ‘3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains’ recognizes 3D printing as a transformative technology. However, it is not a magic bullet that will render factory mass production and manufacturing obsolete. Its exciting potential lies more in its capability to simplify the production of highly complex and customizable products and spare parts – and this could bring logistics and manufacturing closer together than ever before.”

Factors currently limiting more widespread adoption of 3D printing – which has been around since the 1980s – include lack of management knowledge, economic and technological issues. Many printers can use only one material and costs are still high for industrial-grade 3D printer.