Three-Dimensional (3D) Printing: Jolts on Supply Chain Management and the Chinese Manufacturing Industry
3D printing was a bottom-up process by which materials were laid down in thin successive layers until an object was fully constructed. As an innovation in technique, 3D printing made production conducted at or near the points of purchase or consumption possible. This had a huge impact on traditional manufacturing industry and supply chain management. A variety of key 3D-printing patents expired in 2014, stimulating mass production and adoption of 3D-printing devices. 3D printing was likely to provide a solution to supply chain management challenges by printing low-volume and tailor-made products on-site, a solution that would also reduce materials-supply risks, supply chain network complexity and inventory costs. Imitative innovation, well-established manufacturing infrastructure and relatively low labor and material costs made rapid growth of 3D-printer manufacturing in China possible. In recent years, China rapidly embraced the 3D-printing trend and explored the new, greatly expanded 3D-printing manufacturing and export market space. What role could 3D printing play in changing supply-chain management? What could the short-term and long-term impact of 3D printing on the Chinese manufacturing industry be? Could China leverage the coming 3D-printing trend to reinforce the power of its manufacturing industry?