How 3D printing expands digital disruption

Forrester analyst Michael Yamnitsky has identified three key ways in which 3D printing is driving business impact and digital disruption.

Firstly, 3D printing enables key business imperatives in the age of the customer: faster time to market, new products and new markets, as well as the expansion of personalized products or services.

“For those of you who tuned into the recent Super Bowl, Nike leveraged the geometric precision of 3D printing to minimize the friction on the field that slows athletes down [with custom made cleats], streamlining the prototyping and manufacturing of a small batch of finished products from years to months,” Yamnitsky explained in a recent Forrester blog post.

Secondly, 3D printing expands the reach of digital disruption, with the end-to-end digital process of 3D printing reshaping elements of production and the role of business technology. More specifically, it enables flexibility and transformation in the early stages of the product sequence.

“3D printing makes it easier and faster to change features on the fly, giving much greater flexibility to the supply chain within a factory or across a continent; changes in components and subassemblies can be made at the speed of the Internet,” said Yamnitsky.

“[Plus, 3D printing] drives digitization much deeper into manufacturing, creating greater visibility and control. 3D print processes are natively digital, with every element under the continuous control of software. Look for developments such as embedded digital serial numbers in every part, full part history and traceability, [as well as] a recentralization of manufacturing supply chains as labor costs become less of a factor for factory location.”

Last, but certainly not least, 3D printing, when properly coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital data platforms, is capable of disrupting entire value chains.

“It’s the underpinnings of a truly ‘software-driven’ business model, in which every aspect of a physical product — from creation to delivery — is digitally controlled,” Yamnitsky concluded.

“Business models that eliminate analog layers and constituents, [while] blurring the lies between physical processes and native digital control will have huge impact.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the lucrative 3D printing market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 23% from 2013 to 2020, ultimately reaching $8.41 billion in 2020. The rapid growth is attributed to a wide range of diverse factors including innovative and advanced technologies, customized products, government funding, a wide unexploited app space and rapid development of products.

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