How 3D printing will shatter the medtech supply chain


Make no mistake: 3D printing is a disruptive technology, one of the most transformative processes we have seen in a long time that will fundamentally change manufacturing from top to bottom. How it will affect the supply chain in medical manufacturing is a topic that Jim Joyce, Specialist Leader - Supply Chain Practice, Deloitte Consulting (Boston), will address at the forthcoming BIOMEDevice Boston event. He recently shared some insights in advance of the conference and exhibition with PlasticsToday.

From its origins in rapid prototyping, where additive manufacturing, a term that is used synonymously with 3D printing, shaved off months of labor and significant expense from conventional methods, to the next frontier of printing final parts and bringing mass customization to the marketplace, 3D printing is affecting everything from moldmaking to off shoring. It will make regionalized manufacturing viable, as micro factories are set up near the point of purchase. Going a step further, car dealerships one day will "print" spare parts, as needed. The possibilities are endless. And as the cost of printers and materials plummet, "the factors that have made China the workshop of the world will lose much of their force," writes Richard A. D'Aveni in "3D Printing Will Change the World" in the Harvard Business Review. The supply chain, as we know it, will undergo massive change.

3D printing is an enabling technology that is driving change in supply chain practices in two fundamental ways, says Joyce: removal of assets and changes in required skills and capital. "A small company or even a consumer will be able to participate in the supply chain," he says. "You won't need scale or a significant investment." The maker movement is the avant garde of this transformative process.
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