Friday Focus: Will 3D Printing Impact Global Trade?

 15 Jun 2018 11.30am

This week’s Friday Focus is on the impact that 3D printing may have on global trade.

The Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation ING did a study last year that predicted that the mass adoption of cheap, high-speed 3D printing could decrease global trade by as much as 25%.

The reason given was that it would cut down production time and reduce the needs for imports.

However, a Harvard Business Review article in 2015 suggested that 3D printing works best in areas where customization is key, for applications such as printing hearing aids and dental implants.

In one of Wolfgang Lehmacher’s World Economic Forum articles, co-written with Martin Schwemmer of Supply Chain Services SCS, they argue that 3D-printing based production will bring factories closer to customers and products faster to the markets.

Nevertheless, it still has its restrictions.

Read a Port Technology technical paper about how the ports of tomorrow will form smart links in supply chains by Wolfgang Lehmacher, World Economic Forum

The authors argue that 3D printing falls short when it comes to natural fabrics, as it is unable to ensure the functionality of a product, or because of consumer demand.

But a TED Talk (above) by Joseph M. DeSimone, an American chemist, inventor and entrepreneur, unveiled a 3D printing technique that could create parts for final manufacturing processes.

In his presentation, which explained how a 3D printer could operate 25 to 100 times faster than other printing methods, DeSimone said: “If you actually make a part that has the properties to be a final part, and you do it in game-changing speeds, you can actually transform manufacturing.

“We can now connect the digital thread all the way from design to prototyping to manufacturing.

"That opportunity really opens up all sorts of things, from better fuel-efficient cars dealing with great lattice properties with high strength-to-weight ratio, new turbine blades, all sorts of wonderful things.”

Port Technology will be discussing how technology is changing the way supply chains will operate at its Smart Ports & Supply Chain Technologies Conference

  Global Economy/Trade, Shipping