3-D Dilemma


3-D printing isn’t a new technology but it’s recently been gaining more attention in the business and popular press. Companies like GE are incorporating it into their manufacturing processes; NASA is planning to send a 3-D printer to the International Space Station; and UPS will be introducing 3-D printing services into some of its stores. Gartner, a market analysis and statistics company, predicts that the 3-D printer market will grow from $288 million to more than $5.7 billion by 2017, while Credit Suisse, a multinational financial services company, projects a 20-30 percent annual growth for the industry over the next several years.

Businesses throughout the supply chain need to prepare for changes as 3-D printing becomes more integrated into the manufacturing process.

Business benefits fuel growing popularity

3-D printing is an additive process. It uses a 3-D software model to produce an object, building it up layer by layer using a single plastic or metal material or a combination of materials. Recent improvements in the 3-D printing process and dramatic reductions in the cost of printers and raw materials have increased its popularity.

There are two classes of 3-D printers available today. The “prosumer” versions cost a few thousand dollars and serve craftspeople, artisans and other casual users, who may obtain 3-D models from sites like MakerBot. The second class of printers includes the heavy-duty models designed for business manufacturing. These cost tens of thousands of dollars and are likely to have the greatest impact on supply chain businesses.

Click here to read the full article.

– By Mary Lou Jay