Today, 3D printing is a hot topic of conversation among many entrepreneurs. The main two issues are how enterprises can best use innovative 3D printing and how this revolution will affect them.
Every entrepreneur cares about his company and its further development, and manufacturers are no exception. Therefore they wonder how to implement 3D printing in their organizations. And logistics companies are concerned that this revolution will negatively affect their own businesses.
Let's start with the definition of the concept. The 3D printing process results in a three-dimensional object built on the basis of a computer-aided design model. Usually it involves successively adding material layer by layer. Initially, it was just one of the methods of rapid prototyping used to build forms and prototypes themselves. As 3D printers’ accuracy has improved over time, they have also become a tool for making ready-made objects like toys, clothes, chocolates, or even prosthesis. These techniques are used in many industries, including logistics.
What benefits can 3D printing bring to entrepreneurs? Do companies in the TSL industry need to worry about their future due to this innovation from manufacturing companies?
Produce or print?
According to Maciej Tyburczy, Head of the Lean & Process Management Division in the AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG international transport and logistics group, there are many advantages of 3D printing for manufacturing companies.
"Faster delivery of products to Customers is the key benefit. The desired goods can be printed much closer to a Customer, without the need to transport them over thousands of kilometers. In this case, 3D printing can be considered as an alternative to waiting days or weeks for delivery. Experts predict that by 2020 3D printing will drive the volume of cargo traffic from Asia to Europe down by about 2-4%. In some cases, delivery time may be reduced by up to five times.”
Companies can also use 3D printing to create prototypes or spare parts that are no longer produced or elements tailored to individual Customer needs.
"Another benefit for entrepreneurs will be saving warehouse space," continues Maciej Tyburczy.
“In the future, there will be no need to store spare parts and other materials, as they will be printed on demand.”
The last benefit I would like to mention is the increased strength of printed components. They have fewer joints than spare parts from other sources.
Entrepreneurs and Customers can enjoy many benefits of 3D printing. Does that mean that TSL is losing out? Let's look at a few options.
"The fact is that if the number of shipments decreases, logistics companies will feel this change,” admits Maciej Tyburczy. However, large logistics companies are already thinking about new products that they will be able to offer Customers soon including, for example, 3D printing itself. The Customer will order a spare part from a logistics company which will print and deliver the finished product.
“Also, keep in mind that for 3D printing, supplies and printing machines will be required. This equipment must be delivered traditionally. This is another opportunity for companies in the TSL industry. The more entrepreneurs start using this approach, the more machines will need to be transported.
Another bonus for TSL companies will be cheaper vehicle and machine maintenance, as spare parts will be able to be printed cheaper and faster on-site.”
Progress towards mainstream 3D printing requires time, patience, and financial resources. Complex printing devices are very expensive. Not all companies will find it profitable to purchase such equipment and cover its operational costs. Also, today’s 3D printers cannot work effectively at scale. Until they can, mass production will be much cheaper.
"3D printing is a new production approach that presents a challenge for companies in the TSL industry. Surely over time, there will be more development opportunities for logistics companies in connection with this innovation,” concludes Maciej Tyburczy.