The Disruptive Effects of 3D printing on Supply Chains & Business Models

by Robert Martens, 3D Strategies

By using 3D printing, items can be designed optimally, removing limitations required by traditional manufacturing techniques. With this disruptive technology, objects can be created in small lots or even single and unique pieces without incurring the substantial extra cost that standard production processes would require.

Because local production in short times is possible, reduced spare parts stocks or special tools are needed, and waiting on long-lead items can be substantially shortened. Uncoupling design and production enables local production leading to the rise of advanced business models and supply chains.

More information and three Podcasts on this subject can be found here:



What drives you?
People often underestimate additive manufacturing’s disruptive effects on supply chains and business models. Ample opportunities exist for companies to create new, profitable, business models but many firms will go out business if they do not adapt. As most business leaders are not considering 3DP in their strategic business plans, I have a mission to alert managers about this phenomenon and to help them to adopt AM technology.

Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
The impact of AM technology should not be underestimated. Therefore, managers and policymakers need to start considering the disruptive effects of 3DP to their business and society. The question organisations need to ask of themselves is where AM can add value to our organisation? And when is the best time to invest? Is doing nothing an option?

What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
In the short term, 3D printing will support new business models and simplify supply chains. Longer-term, because of the freedom of design that AM enables, items that we use daily (cars, furniture, appliances, fashion, and so on) will look and feel very different.

What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
AM enables sustainable manufacturing. Compared to traditionally manufactured goods, AM technology requires less energy when used for producing a small series of items. As AM products need less long-haul transportation, CO2 emissions are expected to decline. Both aspects could reduce pollution, thereby improving people’s quality of life. Furthermore, utilising AM production may shift employment back from developing to developed countries, which could attenuate unemployment rates in deprived areas.

What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
The general business problem is that managers often fail to adapt to disruptive innovations, such as AM, which may result in threats to the existence of their organisations. AM has emerged as a disruptive technology affecting multiple organisations’ business models and supply chains, threatening incumbent businesses’ health and increasing their risk of obsolescence. This threat is growing significantly because the world market for products created by AM has grown more than 25% each year over the last 25 years. Therefore, managers and policymakers need to start considering the disruptive effects of 3DP to their business and society.

“Special quote”
3D printing will become as transformational as the Internet.

About Robert Martens

Dr Robert Martens has researched how companies adopt additive manufacturing or 3D printing into their business models. He gained valuable insight into the considerations and strategic step firms need to take when implementing this disruptive technology. Robert offers over 30 years of global experience in strategic planning, contracting and procurement, supply chain management, and operations across China, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United-Kingdom. Dr Martens is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).

About 3D Strategies

Following his doctoral study on successful strategies for adopting additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) into business models, Dr. Martens established this company. The firm provides strategic advice and direction to companies that are considering using 3D printing or who are unsure if this disruptive technology is an opportunity or poses a threat to them.

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