A lot of expectation is around
the transportation industry as a lot of recent advancements have been made in
3-D printing technology. Also, we can say that the 3D printing can change the
infrastructure in the transportation industry, such as roads, bridges, etc. In
recent developments there have been new varieties of concrete developed, which
perhaps can be more helpful to 3D printing capabilities. The new type of
concrete which cures instantly and has the strength and stiffness required to
withstand the load of cars, trains, etc.
3D printing could bring a
lot of advantages to the infrastructure industry, especially when the infrastructure
is an important and integral part of the economy. The roads, bridges, tunnels,
all forma an integral part of the transportation and the economy as a whole. 3D
printing or also known as additive manufacturing would improve precision and
quality while reducing waste, costs and congestion at construction sites. We
always see the traffic lanes are closed when there is some repair or
construction going on at the highways or in the city to accommodate the
movement of massive construction materials. 3D printing can help a person go on
the site and print components of transportation infrastructure in much smaller
The other advantage of 3D
printing would be that it drastically reduces the wastage of materials. This is
so because 3D printers would use the exact amount of materials required
necessary for the project and in case there is a surplus of raw material left
over it can be used in some other construction project. 3Dprinitng or additive
manufacturing also has safety as a major plus point to build infrastructure.
Sites which are difficult to access, 3D printing would not have work crews in
dangerous on site places, thereby, keeping the workers safe.
Another way of looking at
the future impact of 3D printing on the transportation industry is the
logistics industry, or the domestic and international freight firms. As more
and more parts are manufactured using 3D printing closer to the construction
sites, the need for parts or material transportation via the traditional
channels, like by ships, trains or trucks would be eliminated eventually as
mentioned in one of the papers titled “3D printing disrupts manufacturing” by
Irene J Petrick and Timothy W Simpson (2013). The author goes on further saying
“3D printing removes the cost barrier of traditional fixed equipment
manufacturing and the distance barrier raised by widely distributed suppliers
sourced based on cost. From a time, perspective, 3D printing has the potential
to reduce the time barrier through a tighter coupling of design and production
in an experimental fashion.”
This in turn would
decrease the requirement of global transportation. This would also reduce the
requirement of companies to buy components from lower labor cost countries and
instead shift their manufacturing to the home country closer to the customer.
The 3D printing technology is ready to make aa huge impact on the distribution
systems. Earlier in 2015 as stated by Alan Amling VP of Strategy, UPS confirmed
that “UPS and SAP have collaborated and co innovated to establish a standard business
process for industrial 3D printing and delivering on the vision of
manufacturing as a service to the customer.” HP Inc. is another huge player
when it comes to 3D printing technology. HP Inc. mentioned earlier has forged
key partnerships with companies such as BMW and Nike for their 3D printers.
Additive manufacturing or
3D printing stacks layers over layers of material to complete any project with
a digital blueprint. Since this technology produces the good then and there and
as of now takes a lot of time, in the beginning manufacturers and distributors
might need to stockpile on the goods produced by a 3D printer, but eventually
the need to stockpile warehouses would be eliminated too.
3D printing technology is
advancing very rapidly. Shipping and transportation companies in the coming
decades would not be able to ship as many goods as more and more sellers might
ship their designs electronically to the consumer to print nearby them.
In the future 3D
printer’s customization nature might let consumers deal directly with the
manufacturers, thereby, eliminating wholesalers, retailers and other middle
men, which are a major part of the transportation network. Global distribution
networks could become more decentralized and instead smaller factories might start
near the major markets all over the world. Also the manufacturers, designers
and customers would be more connected than before.
If we look at the current
trends happening all over the world, I would say that 3D printing has already
starting huge differences in the transportation trends all over the world.
Following are a few examples of 3D printing being used all over the world.
In developing nations, the process of
getting water for cooking or drinking involves many miles of walks in villages.
Watt r is a solar powered partially 3D printed cart for carrying water. It has
been in use in Africa as of now and is likely to change the conditions of the
poor villages all over the world.
Daimler trucks has been using 3D printing
for a long time and has successfully been printing replacement parts for its
Mercedes Benz trucks and Daimler busses.
Union Pacific railroad created a handheld
device using 3D printing which helps them track their rail equipment. Employees
use the system and the handheld device to make sure the trains are organized
properly. According to Union Pacific their 3D printer is in constant use,
especially for their Machine Vision Imaging System which can examine 22
components on a passing train.
The Dubai road and transportation
authority has been utilizing 3D printing technology to print small and large
parts for the metropolitan train system, which has helped them reduce costs and
run the system efficiently. Goods produced with 3D printing would include ticket
vending machines, ticket gates, etc.
Headquartered in Berlin Deutsche Bahn (DB)
is already 3D printing many spare parts. Uwe Fresenborg the CEO of DB (vehicle
maintenance) says “For the maintenance of our vehicles we need immediately
available spare parts. Our trains are expected to roll; 3D printing helps us in
doing so. Printing is faster, more flexible and cheaper.” DB has also used 3d
printing to create metal parts with braille in order to help the disabled
navigate. In Berlin’s central railway station, DB has installed individualized handicapped
signs for handrails.
The Startup Floatility has made the
“e-Floater”, a three wheeled electric scooter. It is for individualized
transport purposes. The e floater is largely 3D printed. The startup used
technology from the company Stratasys in order to save time and money to
produce a prototype.
According to CNBC earlier in the year
Boeing announced that their new 787 Dreamliner aircraft would be built using
titanium allows which would be produced by 3D printing by a company called
Norsk. As a result, Boeing would be able to reduce their cost by $2-$3 million
per unit. Boeing has already produced the first 3D printed part. To add to that
Boeing is trying to patent the 3D printing of aircraft parts and the entire
system around it, such as, parts library, database, parts management system,
China has successfully 3D printed a car.
It is made of a low cost composite material. It was made in five days and then
assembled for a test drive. The electric powered car is capable of reaching
40km/hour speeds. Chinese company Yingchuang Building technology company also
made the world’s first 3D printed building in Dubai It is a one story building
with an area of 250 Square meters. It was finished in 17days using specially
made cement and costs $140,000.
For a long time,
globalization has helped logistics and transportation industry. As the world
become closer and closer more companies have evolved into global transporters.
With the advent of 3D printing technology, a lot is going to change. From
printing spare parts to cars and trains and planes, the future of 3D printing
so far looks endless. 3D printing would definitely revolutionize the
transportation industry. The production would be much faster as the 3D printing
enables continuous production for individual parts. 3D printing would also be
faster than the traditional manufacturing process, this means better continuity
for the design and the development process. Also the customization attributed
to the 3D printing technology helps the manufacturers easily customize products
according to the customers liking simply by changing the design on the
computer. The transportation industry can make more customized cars, bikes,
etc. which will satisfy the ever-growing customer base of automotive companies.
The designs could be changed to fit the likes and preferences of customers.
There will also be less uncertainty to the whole process of manufacturing as
all the parts would be readily available and there would be no delays to the
process by waiting for the supplier to supply the materials.
Also in case of 3D
printing the material used is exact and there is no wastage and since, there
would be no need to store the materials in the warehouses it would save cost,
time and increase efficiency of the whole manufacturing process.
As of now 3D printing
would be a major boon for the transportation industry but could also be
perceived as a threat for the logistics industry as mentioned by John Manners
Bell and Ken Lyon in their article “The Implications of 3D printing in the
Global Logistics industry”.
Could 3D printing change the world (Oct
2011), Thomas Campbell, Christopher Williams, Olga Ivanova, Banning Garett,
3D printing disrupts manufacturing” by
Irene J Petrick and Timothy W Simpson (2013).