In 1913, Henry Ford introduced our country to a mass production moving assembly line to increase efficiency in the manufacturing of The Model-T, which was an affordable car that offered no personalization, not even a choice of color. However, contrary to the early 1900’s, in today’s world customization is necessary. How else would people live without their 20 inch rims, chrome door handles, oversized sun roof, heated steering wheel, and hand painted initials on the side of their cars?
3D printing can take customization to a whole new level, in fact an instantaneous level. Although common customization today is unique to your preferences like picking colors for your sneakers online, you are still limited with your options, not to mention having a higher lead-time for them to be made and then shipped. Imagine getting exactly what you want from the shade of a certain color, all the way down to an extra supported insole for your right foot that is less arched than your left. Or think about automotive manufacturers using 3D printing to provide a cup holder that fits your favorite extra wide coffee mug.
The more materials the more possibilities
With the array of materials being used such as plastic, nylon, stones, metals, wood, and bamboo, the future of 3D printing will be able to produce virtually anything. Homes and buildings will be the creations of 3D printing, which will drastically change manufacturing plants that are currently producing materials to build them. The future of shopping will be going to a department store where a 3D printer will allow you to design your own product from the available material instead of picking from finished products. Medicine is even being created with precise amounts of pill ingredients into colors, shapes, and sizes unique to the patient.
Another material that 3D printing is capable of using is food. Barilla conducted a contest that called for the best design shape for pasta, which was a rosebud made possible by a 3D printer. Endless marketing opportunities running through your head? In addition, Hershey’s chocolate factory has its very own custom chocolate printer where you can make whatever your sweet tooth desires. Will the massive amount of heart shaped boxed chocolates produced for Valentine’s Day suddenly not make the cut? Richard Howells expands on the possibilities of food being printed in his blog What Can I Print for You Off the Menu Today? 3D Food Printing Could Soon be a Reality.
The impact on supply chains
More supply chains will be make-to-order versus make-to-stock because customers will be picking out exactly what they want. This will result in less inventory required which will therefore translate to less holding costs and lower total cycle times. However, there will be pressures on costs since economies of scale will fade. Another factor that will be effected is the factories because they will most likely have to be smaller and located closer to the end user to keep up with the demand of the customer. In conclusion, we are going to start to see massive changes in the way products are made, sourced, and delivered whether it’s on a large scale such as an office building or as simple as a lollipop.