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3D printing is gaining traction in the high tech sector. Nevertheless, most manufacturers have yet to move beyond mere consideration of this innovative alternative to traditional production methods.
In UPS’s Fifth Annual Change in the (Supply) Chain Survey, 72% of respondents reported having “hands-on” experience with 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
Of those companies to have launched 3D printing initiatives, 75% are using it to aid in the design process for new products. Other applications among that group of early adopters include the generation of samples or product mock-ups (55%), production of finished goods (34%) and generation of spare parts (24%).
Regionally, the Asia Pacific region leads in the deployment of 3D printing for high tech production, driven by innovators in China (50% of the reported users). That compares with just 29% in North America.
Still, these pioneers represent but a relatively small fraction of the UPS survey’s total sampling. Just 4% said they were actively using 3D printing, while another 12% have begun to experiment with it. The remaining companies are much less far along: 22% said “we have explored it and concluded it is not ready,” 30% said “we have not explored it,” and 32% said “we are just beginning to understand it.”
Clearly, 3D printing represents an exciting opportunity for businesses in high tech and other key sectors. It promises to slash manufacturing costs while allowing for smaller production runs that are geared to items with lower demand, including those that are tailored to consumers’ individual tastes. Most importantly, it will help the many partners that make up global supply chains – including seasoned third-party logistics (3PL) providers like UPS – to achieve an unprecedented degree of flexibility in adjusting to ever-shifting markets.
For now, the technology remains in the development stage. Many companies are just beginning to familiarize themselves with the particulars, and are years away from making it an everyday part of their production environment. Still, future surveys are likely to find the number of active users growing, and the laggards dwindling.
Learn more about the future of 3D printing by downloading the Change in the (Supply) Chain Survey.
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