How Will 3D and 4D Printing Change Your Supply Chain?

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3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has predicted annual growth of 24% through 2024, according to All Things Supply Chain.

More and more industries are embracing the technology as a powerful complement to traditional manufacturing. Some reasons for this impressive growth include:

● Improved process flexibility. 3D printing shortens lead times when changing over production from one product to the next. The manufacturing time for each product is also typically shorter, which means faster response to customer demand.

● Distributed manufacturing. Local builds are possible through on-demand files sent securely to local 3D printing facilities. This option may reduce logistics and transportation time, as well as associated costs.

● Lowered labour costs. 3D printing typically uses fewer parts and assembly pieces than traditional methods. This allows a reduction in overall staffing costs.

● Less waste. Since 3D printing adds material layer by layer as needed, in many cases it will reduce the amount of raw material used as compared to that used in subtractive manufacturing methods.

These advantages will smooth out any kinks in your current supply chain, offering a balance of growth, performance, and innovation while driving revenue with minimal risk.

What You Should Know About 4D Printing

4D printing is still moving through early-stage research and development, but you will likely be hearing more about it in the coming decade. 4D is considered an extended step beyond 3D printing using the same kind of additive manufacturing processes, but with materials designed to react to specific external stimuli.

Researchers have mapped out and learned how to harness the responses of certain materials, such as the swelling and stiffness properties of a composite hydrogel material made of cellulose fibrils, which can be ‘programmed’ to react in a specific way to changes in temperature, pressure, or water flow.

The primary benefit of 4D printing will be its ability to create adaptive and customised products for the entire product life cycle, not only during the product’s maturity stage but from the introduction through decline.

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