3D Printing and Its Disruptive Impacts on Supply Chains of the Future

3D printing technology has emerged as one of the most disruptive innovations to impact the global supply chain and logistics industry. The technology is impacting our personal and professional lives, with some claiming that the technology will revolutionize and replace existing manufacturing technologies, while others argue that the technology merely enhances some aspects of the production process. Whether evolutionary or revolutionary, 3D printing technology is recognized as a striking trend that will significantly impact supply chains. Although the expansion of 3D printing in the private consumer market is an interesting development in its own right, the biggest potential for disruption lies in industrial applications and how 3D printing will influence supply chains of the future. In this article, we examine what we consider to be the areas of the supply chain most likely to be disrupted by 3D printing technology: Manufacturing, dispersed manufacturing, design, shift in skills requirements, sustainability and legal/security concerns.. For each area, we identify the key questions that must be answered in a roadmap for future research and practice. While we seek answers to these questions, we suggest that managers should develop a flexible change management strategy to mitigate the effects of disruption to their future supply chains and take advantage of the resulting opportunities. Those that do nothing will be left wanting, because the influence of 3D printing technology on supply chains is expected to grow.

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