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3-D printers created one-off trinkets, souvenirs and not much else. And business leaders often were skeptical that 3-D printing would ever advance enough to be an integral part of manufacturing. Nevertheless, we are now seeing that 3-D printing has reached an inflection point as lower costs and technological advances have put it within reach of more people.
That’s the most common use because it allows for a more agile design process and rapid product iterations. Some of the more progressive users are exploring larger-scale parts production for existing products.
In fact, 3-D printing has the potential to shake up supply chains by positively impacting parts manufacturing, inventory costs and lead times. For example, 3-D printing can help companies meet demand in real time in situations when long lead times are a problem. It also can help lower inventory costs by enabling companies to maintain a virtual inventory and print parts as they need them. 3-D printing can be used in centralized and decentralized networks; however, research has shown that using 3-D printing in decentralized networks has a measurable impact on the supply chain.
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