Imagine being able to receive an order for a spare part and create that product right there, right now. You can dismiss the whole process of checking the warehouse availability and shipping it to the customer. Or worse still; realizing that the order is not available at hand and having to order it from a third-party provider.

This is the promise of 3D printing or additive manufacturing.

Author Muge Hizal Dogaroglu | Copperberg

3d printing

Reading time: 2 minutes

Imagine being able to receive an order for a spare part and create that product right there, right now. You can dismiss the whole process of checking the warehouse availability and shipping it to the customer. Or worse still; realizing that the order is not available at hand and having to order it from a third-party provider.

This is the promise of 3D printing or additive manufacturing.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it is sometimes called, is a technology that fabricates components layer by layer to form a three-dimensional product.

How is it used in manufacturing?

Perhaps the best part of 3D printing is that it is already happening. Aerospace, automotive sectors already adopted 3D printing. However, it has yet to become mainstream in the rest of the manufacturing industries. One of the pioneering manufacturing companies, Siemens Mobility use 3D printing when producing their spare parts. Through 3D printing, Siemens Mobility is able to prolong the life of original parts and improve the reliability of their services. Moreover, they are able to achieve these results with reduced delivery time, decreased cost and improved quality.

Why is it still a challenge to implement 3D printing?

One of the reasons behind this holdback is the cost of implementation. 3D printing is a costly investment that requires patience to see ROI. However, as Gerd Leonhard, the futurist, speaker, and author told us in an exclusive interview, the costs will drop as it will become more mainstream.

The other issue has more to do with the human capital; the fact that there are not enough skilled people to use these technologies. (Read our article on upskilling existing employees to prevent lack of skilled labour) Atanu Chaudhuri, an academic in the field of additive manufacturing, states that the lack of skills is a significant problem with 3D printing: “We do not have enough people who can design a product for 3D printing, who can understand the process and technology.” This is already happening as now, “it is possible to build highly complex 3D components in a variety of materials including plastics, cement, composites, and metal.

The future

If the manufacturing industries can adopt 3d printing on masse, it can change the the whole prospect of spare parts management: it can enable businesses to hold less inventory which would lead them to bring down their costs. They may even be able to get away with a few 3D printing stations in strategic places instead of having warehouses for ensuring fast delivery.

With such a potential, 3D printing is definitely a trend worth looking into for providing delightful customer service in spare parts.

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