While technologies like 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) have transformed the engineering landscape, the real advantages of these new manufacturing technologies actually lie in the supply chain.
Rapid prototyping can reinvent manufacturing and product handling processes to ensure consumers get access to better designed products more quickly. Prototyping can be done using a range of materials that meet the workflows and needs of different manufacturers.
Here are some of the ways that rapid prototyping can transform supply chains.
Reducing the product design pipeline
Although 3D printing is considered a new technology, additive manufacturing has been around for many years. However, only in recent times has the technology become commercially viable.
It is critical that organisations implement prototyping in-house rather than outsourcing it to a third-party. The pipeline between designing and manufacturing can be managed in-house, wherein the organisation can test durability, utility and desirability of the product. Rapid prototyping ensures that this pipeline gets shorter, allowing product designers to test several product variants quickly.
Rapid prototyping is considered ideal for time-sensitive products like those used in the healthcare industry. Using this technology, life-saving medical devices and instruments can reach patients quicker as the supply chain shortens.
Creating smarter packaging for enhanced shelf appeal
Thermoplastics such as polycarbonate, PLA and ABS are commonly used in product packaging. With the implementation of rapid prototyping, these materials can be transformed with functional and attractive packaging long before the product is shipped out. This saves time and money, and allows the company to distribute products quickly to consumers or retailers.
Rapid prototyping allows you to create multiple packaging variants to see how well you can stack the packaging in trucks for shipment, how the package design will be perceived by consumers, and how easy it would be for retailers to remove the packaging for shelf display. The benefits of rapid prototyping in this case run from one end of the supply chain to the other.
Minimising physical inventory
Manufacturers don’t have to create products and let them sit until there is a demand for them. Using 3D printing and die casting, rapid prototyping allows for smaller warehouses and product stage areas. Engineers can utilise virtual inventory, so that when there is a demand for a product, it can be produced and shipped immediately. This allows manufacturers to make saleable products on demand. It also allows them to customise products quickly to suit the needs and requirements of customers.
Rapid prototyping makes manufacturers more flexible and consumer-friendly. It ensures better products for end users and cost savings for manufacturers due to shortened supply chain practices.
Steve has over 28 years of success as CPO, MD and Procurement BPO leader in a range of industries. Steve is COO at Odesma, responsible for Odesma’s delivery capability & infrastructure.