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Supply chains today are big, complex and global. Keeping them humming is an enormous challenge. But does it have to be that way? We think the world is entering the era of small, simple and local supply chains, powered by a new generation of manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing, intelligent assembly robotics and open-source hardware - also known as the Software Defined Supply Chain.
It is evident that, over the next five years, most major consumer products will be cheaper and simpler to make using a software-defined supply chain than a traditional manufacturing process. In fact, on average, this new approach will result in products that are 23 percent lower in cost to make. Cheaper, however, is hardly new. What is new is the re-localization of the global supply chain and the radical simplification that is coming.
With low-cost robotic assembly and 3D printing, it is possible not only to make nearly any solid component, but it is also increasingly efficient to assemble whole products from those components using cheap, flexible robots. The result will be supply chains that are much, much simpler.
The 3D printing revolution is not a decade or more away - it's going to start showing up in mass production within the next five years. Despite skepticism, research demonstrates 3D manufacturing improvements combined with key patents will lead to a 79 percent reduction in average cost to print objects in five years, and a total of nearly 90 percent over the next 10 years.
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