3D printing may put global supply chains out of business

Will 3D printing make global supply chains unnecessary? That’s a real possibility, according to a recent report from Transport Intelligence, Smart Planet reports.

3D printing (or “additive manufacturing,” as it’s called in industrial circles) takes offshore manufacturing and brings it back close to the consumer. It has enormous potential to shift the trade balance. Goods will be cheaper to reproduce within the domestic market, versus manufacturing and then shipping them from a distant low-wage country.

The report (open access PDF), authored by John Manners-Bell of Transport Intelligence and Ken Lyon of Virtual-Partners Ltd., points to the growing role of automation in production resulting from 3D printing:

    New technologies which are currently being developed could revolutionize production techniques, resulting in a significant proportion of manufacturing becoming automated and removing reliance on large and costly work forces. This in turn could lead to a reversal of the trend of globalization which has characterized industry and consumption over the last few decades, itself predicated on the trade-off between transportation and labor costs.

Companies may gradually move away from long-distance production as it gets cheaper to mass-produce at home. “There is obviously an enormous leap between a manufacturing process which can presently produce one-offs and one that can replace large scale manufacturing,” they say. “However, in theory, there is no reason why advances in technology could not increase the speed of production and reduce unit costs.”

The report adds that 3D printing “is already very good at producing products (even with moving parts) which previously would have required the assembly of multiple components,” and that by “eliminating the assembly phase there will be huge savings for the manufacturer in terms of labor costs.” 3D printing-based production could also reduce or eliminate storage, handling and distribution costs.

Eventually, products may even be produced right in consumers’ homes, reducing what was a series of supply-chain interactions to a software-based transaction.


Raw material will still require shipping & transport.

Not if available locally. And if thinking further raw material could be produced by recycling out of use products. Again locally.

"huge savings for the manufacturer in terms of labor costs"
"products may even be produced right in consumers’ homes"

Nice, very nice, but will that consumer still have a job to pay for these products ?

Well, someone needs to design those products, does it? Someone also needs to design and produce those 3D printing machines, is it not so? We also need food, healthcare, homes, music, art ... There are plenty of jobs for all of us. We just need a system that emphasizes what is important for pleasant life in our world, not just for a few greedy egoistic evil fucx, but everyone else.

Design could come from an open source community much like the Linux community of today. Just small innovations and ideas shared locally. Something like the most basic 3d templates for most everyday items can be shared for free. I mean seriously how many people need to design a teapot. Food will increasingly become self produced in the near future.

Healthcare costs can be slashed by ever increasing sophistication in self diagnostic tools being put into things like smartphones. Do you really need a doctor to tell you that you have cancer if your smartphone is sufficiently equipped to test you completely? Most GPS are quite useless as is but expensive!

Music and art are open to debate here, alot should be free and inexpensive. And sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. It will be the last frontier for Intellectual Property rights battles on digital distribution. But even today almost anyone can access music online and watch great works of artworks on deviantart website or conceptart org. The future is about collaboration and free distribution, not competition and strict ownership laws.

Ok, so your smartphone tells you u have cancer - who do you seek for help? Or if u have a bad teeth or injured yourself and need stitching? Oh, right, u have a small nano robot doctors in your blood to fix it ...

Near future could be way further than u think. But I do agree with most of what u have wrote and completely with your last sentence about collaboration and free distribution. But we still need a system for evaluating and exchanging goods and services. Just not this one we have now.

to that last bit I agree :)

there can not be money in the future, I so hope for it

This of course, to be truly a beneficial product 'for the masses', will have to come on the heels of a completely new economic paradigm... How to move beyond the same ol same ol dispute of "socialist" vs "capitalist"? How would such a discussion even begin?

Don't know... but I do know we are living in a very exciting time!

more plastic! if you ,once you can load it full of old plastic bottles etc - & it melts without fumes -then word em ups!

If there is money to be made, they'll do it. And I'd say there is. People will purchase these machines, if they are correctly packaged, for the novelty. Then they will purchase them for the convenience. Finally, they will purchase them because they know nothing different. I do like the idea of there being storefronts with 3-D printers, with the requisite variety of raw materials present to produce most anything fabricated a community could need. I imagine the designs will be a hot commodity in our economy, with a litany of absurd patents and legal wrangling to follow.

I foresee a new "War on Patent Infringement". Of course, it will be unwinnable just like the "War on Piracy".

I think 3D printing has even more widespread implications. These machines can print their own parts. You could potentially print and assemble a machine that can itself assemble parts into a 3D printing machine. Eventually, there would be no need to pay for a machine, just the raw materials. But that presents another problem: Where are people going to get the money to buy materials when most of the market system has been made obsolete?

I shall respond to your question with another link. This is a machine that converts recyclable plastic into 3d printing wire :)


Pretty awesome huh? What i think that will ocurre in the near future is that we will not have need money to survive. We will be close to a resource based society. Equality of means and materials to everyone. Money generates greed, envy, induces crime etc etc. If everyone as the same, it will be pointless to rob :)

This article misses the point. Businesses losing money because of new technology doesn't matter at all. People are what matters.

"Eventually, products may even be produced right in consumers’ homes, reducing what was a series of supply-chain interactions to a software-based transaction."

The above quote sickens me. Consumers' homes? Software-based transactions? i damn-well hope not!

if individuals can start to design and create for themselves (and maybe even learn to share open-source style), standardised and technologically outdated 'products' will cease to be viable.


Watch this space people!

Day by day numbers of technologies are increasing and people are more acquainted with different new technologies. In these recent few days world of printing has developed to a great extent. After the evolution of 3d printing the global supply chain has extended to a great extent and also helped us in creating a history and latest technologies of the world.