How will 3D printing affect the future of shipping?

By localizing manufacturing, 3D printing will change transportation needs and transform supply chains worldwide.

Manufacturers can now use 3D printing to create parts and products without the need of large facilities. Everything from house furnishings, clothing, car parts and electronics can be fabricated out of plastics, metal, ceramic and other materials. In changing how products are made, 3D printing also impacts where products are made, changing the nature of freight services to affect not just freight moving companies but entire global supply chains.
 
As 3D printing allows products to be manufactured closer to the point of purchase, the need for freight services will change. Transportation of parts and products from large facilities to distribution and retail centers will be reduced. Raw materials required for manufacturing will be fewer, as 3D printing often begins with simple powder or filaments layered onto a flat surface. 3D-printed products may also require fewer parts. The reduced need for source materials, lower number of required parts, and the ability to print required parts in a single facility, may also simplify global supply chains and further affect the role of freight moving companies.
 

Global implications

The effect of 3D printing will be felt not only by freight moving companies, but within manufacturing and shipping centers around the world, including world leaders like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The effect will also be felt across high-traffic shipping lanes.

All of these effects will trickle down to affect the trucking industry and freight moving companies by almost 25%, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers. PWC also suggests there is ample room for logistics companies to adjust and capitalize on these trends; forward-thinking freight services providers can employ strategies to respond to industry changes: by redesigning their networks, shifting their efforts, and even creating new services to support the newly three-dimensional world.

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