3D Printing will Disrupt Many Industries and Businesses

When I started to work on an IoT opportunity for a large transportation company three years ago developing a trailer tracking prototype, I started to think about how 3D printing was going to affect their company in the future. I see the disruption even more clearly now since years have passed since then.  3D printing will dramatically change the transportation industry and the effect 3D printing will have in other verticals will be staggering. And to make it worse, it is not going to be good news for the transportation industry because the disruption will be negative.

Facts and Figures

To write this post, I researched this topic with the disruption of transportation in mind (manufacturing, retail, and supply chain are topics onto themselves). In an article at Truck.com (3D printing will disrupt trucking shipping delivery), it says that “3-D printing could threaten 41 percent of air cargo, 37 percent of ocean container and 25 percent of trucking freight business, according to a report last year from consulting firm Strategy&.” Also mentioned in this article is that we are decades away from critical mass. I do not agree with that statement.   When I read this article, I thought of the millions of taxi drivers that were disrupted overnight with Uber.  Remember when and how Apple & Android phones singlehandedly brought down Blackberry over a short period of time?  I also remember when laser printers were too expensive to afford at home? Now laser printers are ubiquitous. And HP is at it again developing 3D printers and partnering with companies like Nike (3D printers and nike-hp 3D printing).

Some Good Examples of Disruption

A great consumer example would be ordering shoes online and having them created right in your home on your 3D printer. There is no wait, no shipping, and no hassle. They aren’t late, damaged, lost or stolen, and you can wear them immediately. Check out this video (3D Printed Shoes). And for those who are in green technologies, 3D printing will be a savior to the environment since you will not burn as much fossil fuels to get it.   Think of the trees you would be saving because you don’t have to ship your item in a paper box.

I have personally seen 3D printers create computer boards, toys, shoes, car parts, fabrics and materials, and food. Wouldn’t it be great if you could order a pizza from your favorite chain or local establishment or receive a last minute Christmas gift without worrying whether it will arrive in time? Drones? Who needs drones?  Another recent article stated you can have your home printed for about $4,000.00 in 24 hours (24 Hr Home).

Can you stop the disruption?

So how are the transportation companies going to battle this new technology revolution? I don’t have insight into every company, but one of the articles mentioned above said that UPS is trying to buy their own 3D printers.  They will use them in their retail stores and partner with other companies to create the materials locally and then deliver them to your door. I see this as a short stop-gap measure for a number of reasons:

  • 3D printers will become more affordable, and the technology will continue to improve by leaps and bounds thus moving the capability to your home (the last mile)
  • Creating a digital supply chain using 3D printing will lower procurement, process, shipping & storage costs and will ultimately increase revenue for companies that embrace it
  • Retailers like Amazon, Nike, and many others will bypass the transportation industry with 3D printing solutions of their own
  • Speed and convenience win the day: “Where supply chain used to be the most inelastic piece in the journey from manufacturing to customer delivery, 3D printing will be the catalyst and enabler to reimagine a supply chain that can dynamically respond to customer requirements and expectations” – Simon Dale. (10 industries 3D printing will disrupt or decimate)
  • It is a global economy now, and companies will be able to provide their products quickly and more affordable around the world to anyone with a 3D printer
  • Shipping costs will continue to increase, thus pushing manufacturers to a more streamlined supply chain (higher-shipping-fees-will-force-e-retailers-adjust)
  • The risk and hassle of manufacturers dealing with suppliers off-shore will disappear if they use 3D printing

Numerous online articles state that the factories of the future are here, technology will continue to disrupt industries causing change for the betterment of all. And it is coming sooner than you think – Digital production on demand.  Even 3D printing jobs are now coming into demand (3D Jobs).

Please let me know your thoughts on the subject.


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