Additive manufacturing is untraditional. It is disruptive. It is transforming. And it allows forward-thinking businesses to fly in the face of the conventional ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. 

Previously, a warehouse or retail space bursting at the seams with inventory was a sign of status and success. Now, the concept of uploading designs for all those parts and products onto a nearly invisible digital file means clearing the way for much more important priorities. Companies of any size can maintain their offerings digitally and manufacture them at any level via 3D printed parts, whether a customer needs mass production of 3D printed consumer goods or low-volume manufacturing of highly customized components for drones

Without the need to trip over massive amounts of inventory on hand, companies can also invest precious capital in more valuable endeavors, while putting factory and warehouse space to more efficient use. 

Minimizing Inventory with 3D Printed Spare Automotive Parts 

Dealing with maintenance issues on any scale can be a monumental headache, exacerbated by the need to stock spare parts too; however, it is completely realistic for companies today to eliminate the need for spare parts, keeping them on digital files. Automotive applications are a perfect example, taking into consideration the vast number of parts and tools they may need. While large store-rooms may have previously been a necessity, with the ability to 3D scan spare part designs and maintain them on digital files, everything a company needs is protected; after all 3D printed spare automotive parts on-demand don’t have time to get damaged, corroded, or misplaced. 

For now, it may be unrealistic to expect that for an immediate replacement of a part, mechanics run right into the back and 3D print a car part on the spot while a customer waits; however, in other instances, it is completely possible to print out parts with a bit of lead time–and even tweak designs further if needed. 

For the vintage car enthusiast and mechanic who is putting back together an older vehicle, being able to scan or reverse engineer, and 3D print spare car parts or obsolete parts is the difference between walking away and giving up on what could be a collectible–or taking a car to the next level with fully functioning parts firing on all pistons. This could also change the face of maintenance and repair for applications like railways where parts may have incredible longevity and then be impossible to find later, or are extremely costly to purchase through a replacement part manufacturer.

Breaking free from other manufacturers also means the potential for huge savings in terms of materials and technology; for example with materials like Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic], an automotive company can create as many prototypes as necessary, iterating and testing for form and fit, before going on to use the same material–or move on to Steel or Aluminum for high-performing, functional parts.

Impact of 3D Printing on Supply Chain

Specific events and a sense of urgency are sometimes behind the evolution of unexpectedly new and rewarding methods of work. Supply chain issues are a great example, affecting nearly everyone in some way since 2020. Developing into a major point of opposition for suppliers around the globe, supply chain issues have made it increasingly difficult to navigate nearly every phase of production, and especially in receipt and delivery of goods.

With supply chain issues continuing to be a source of escalating tension around the world, another valuable benefit of 3D printing has been in the spotlight as manufacturers turn to more localized factories. Suddenly, a whole lot of features are adding up into one tremendous ‘pro,’ allowing for fast restructuring of supply issues–resting on the ability to 3D print either onsite in many locations or in nearby factory space. This scenario has proven to be completely attainable by progressive companies converting completely to additive manufacturing as well as traditional ones adjusting to a more hybrid vision.

Bringing forth an enlightened generation of manufacturers, 3D printing enables freedom that was simply never an option before. 

About Shapeways

Enjoy the benefits of this advanced technology and a wide range of materials from Shapeways for 3D printing your creations with accuracy, complex detail, and no minimum or limits in terms of mass customization or single part orders. Shapeways has worked with over 1 million customers in 160 countries to 3D print over 21 million parts! Read about case studies, find out more about Shapeways additive manufacturing solutions, and get instant quotes here.