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3D Printing shaping future supply chains

3D printing layers materials to produce finished goods. Metal, body tissues, concrete and food are all now being used as part of the 3D printing process due to the technology developing in capability since it was brought into reality in the early 1980’s, no longer can the tech “just” produce plastic prototypes.


The 3D printer could be set to revolutionise future supply chains by reducing supply complexities, increasing the speed to market of products, reducing global impact by limiting the shipping of goods around the globe, whilst enabling the printing of replacement parts in remote locations.  Whilst 3D printing is not set to displace mass production it will open up a world of product personalisation that could shape the demands of consumers.


The reality is that 3D printing (or additive manufacturing as it is also known) is increasing in speed and capability.  Procurement teams that fail to build knowledge and awareness of the capabilities of such a disruptive technology may find themselves on the back foot when looking to add value and increase market share to their organisations.


There are so many benefits that organisations can leverage from the adoption of this technology:

  • Imagine not placing restrictions on your engineering teams technical capabilities, where bespoke designs that cover multiple applications can become a reality,
  • Where procurement can reduce the tiers in your supply chain down to an efficient level that give you complete visibility of the whole supply chain, adding value and increasing speed of supply.
  • Reduction in inventory levels can become a reality, as parts can be made to order on site or at a local supply source.
  • Meeting consumer demands for bespoke products at a realistic price point can leverage new market opportunities. 
  • Environmental impact can be radically reduced as we remove by products from the manufacturing process and cease to ship goods around the globe.

These are real advantages that can being leveraged with 3D printing.


As with all disruptive technologies, choosing the right time to invest is always of consideration and there still remain technical challenges to be overcome regarding intellectual property and warranties. CIPS has compiled guidance materials to offer insight into this topic.

3D printing shaping future supply chains

An introduction to 3D printing with Dr Rob Martens


Is 3D printing a disruptive technology? with Dr Rob Martens

The impact of 3D printing on supply chains, with Dr Rob Martens

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