What is the impact of 3D printing on business ?

Some companies may be watching how you can make a huge difference with 3D printing. But are you observing this kind of breakthrough technology in all aspects?

If you are a manufacturer, you may want to know which products you can produce by additive manufacturing, or what competitors will use to produce them. If you are not a manufacturer, you might think that 3D printing is not really suitable for your business, except for some products that will be purchased in the future with 3D printing.

However, for 3D printing, you may want a broader view. Because additive manufacturing will make breakthroughs in business models and markets rather than individual products or components. Even if your company has nothing to do with manufacturing, 3D printing can have a profound impact on you.

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The following are just a few of the many business areas where additive manufacturing has the potential to change:

1. Shipping and logistics are one of the industries most affected by 3D printing. Additive manufacturing enables product manufacturers to bring production closer to customers geographically. This will directly affect the major courier companies and any link from international container shipping to regional freight forwarding. You can easily imagine a way of on-demand local delivery similar to Uber, so that the “last mile” transport can be as expensive as Uber's taxi.

 2, warehousing and inventory on-demand production of additive manufacturing avoids a large investment in warehousing and inventory. According to data from the US Census Bureau, US companies are currently investing $1.8 trillion in manufacturing and trade inventories. A few percentage points reduction can result in billions of dollars in cost reductions. The money saved can increase sales profits and consumers will benefit from it. At the same time, producers will have to reconsider their investment in large warehouses.

3. Service stations In particular, in consumer goods and IT equipment, manufacturers and service providers have invested in large centralized warehouses that serve durable products and other high-priced label products. But with more personalization and distributed production, will centralized service stations make sense? When replacement parts can be produced near consumers on demand, there will be less investment in service stations.

4. Import/export of sites in the vicinity of consumers will reduce major import and export tariffs and related costs, while also eliminating transportation costs and related carbon dioxide emissions. For some consumers, the latter may be a large Selling point.

Additive manufacturing may also overturn assumptions and cost models for where production facilities are placed. Running a small 3D printing device in a target market may be more meaningful than running a factory or outsourcing to one of the larger plants in an emerging market with low labor costs. Or, it may make more sense to produce near the place of sale in each market than to manufacture in an established technology corridor and then ship the product to an emerging market that you are just starting to enter.

5. Innovations and Prototypes According to PWC, two-thirds of US manufacturers use 3D printing to produce final products, and more than half use prototype technology. Therefore, even if a product is never produced through additive manufacturing, additive manufacturing can significantly accelerate innovation. This has a certain impact on your R&D function, because in order to speed up the design cycle, R&D functions will not be transformed into customization. Additive manufacturing also provides opportunities for startups to surpass well-known companies in the competition.

6. Intellectual property consumers will increasingly get 3D printed files. They can use these files to produce their own products and replacement parts, and can share files with other consumers. They can even improve the product by modifying the file. In a word, consumers have the opportunity to become their own manufacturers.

In this emerging market, how to protect the intellectual property of the products you design and how to protect the source of revenue for the replacement parts you produce? In some cases, the solution may be to build close relationships with those “production consumers” and encourage knowledge. Sharing allows consumers to become active participants in product design.

7. Customer Relationship In fact, 3D printing affects customer relationships in a variety of ways. First, it can change the owner of the relationship between the brand and the end customer. Suppose you have a fashion brand and sell it only through retailers, without direct contact with consumers. But because 3D printing technology allows consumers to customize personalized products, you may now want to work with your retailer to reach consumers. Or, you may want to help your retailer develop the ability to accept custom orders.

In both cases, you need to do more than just use 3D printing to produce the personalized products you need, and you need a quick and seamless investment in the entire infrastructure to capture and complete custom orders. For many manufacturers, this is an unknown area.

Forward-thinking companies are looking at additive manufacturing in all of these areas. Logistics company UPS has begun to invest heavily in 3D printing, in the hope that 3D printing will have an impact on the logistics industry. Smart interbank companies will take the same steps to observe the true meaning of 3D printing and use these insights to maintain a competitive edge.