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In additive manufacturing - also known as 3D printing - a computer-controlled laser melts materials such as plastic or a mixture of alloys according to a blueprint that is programmed into the machine. An object is made by building up ultra-thin layers of the material one by one.
The technology reduces waste to a minimum because material is added (hence the term "additive") in the precise quantities needed to make an item. Also, additive manufacturing is incredibly flexible both in terms of the types of objects that can be manufactured and where the process takes place.
Some supply chains will become obsolete as a result of this flexibility. For example, 3D printers in auto repair shops and retail outlets could make certain auto components on site, eliminating the need for these items to be delivered by suppliers. Many expedited shipments will not be necessary as the technology matures. When a production line goes down, for instance, the part needed to fix the problem might have to be shipped from a faraway supplier using expensive same-day delivery services. Simply printing the part in situ avoids this costly transportation option.
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Keywords: supply chain management IT, supply chain management, supply chain solutions, supply chain planning, enterprise 3D printing
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