Many consumers may be wondering whether 3D printing is ever going to produce a game changing a product that will become a “must buy” for the mass market. While 3D printing may not have achieved those heights, it is already having a major impact on the manufacturing, medical, aviation and aerospace industries. Moreover, now it is branching out into the trucking and product distribution industries.
3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing. 3D printing uses small pieces of various materials and stitches them together based on designs that are inputted or created from computer programs. Even the most complex designs, such as parts for commercial aviation engines, are created using advanced 3D printers.
Trucking, Product Distribution, and 3D Printing
While 3D printing and trucking are not two things one would associate together, there is a relationship. A lot of people would write off the possible impact of 3D printing on the trucking industry because the parts would not be able to handle the wear and tear that trucks are exposed to. However, such thinking is misinformed. When 3D printed parts are being put on planes such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, it is a misconception to think they could not withstand being on a truck.
Current Work on 3D Printed Trucking Parts
The relationship between 3D printing and trucking logistics is still in its infancy, but there are already some promising signs. The Renault Trucks company is pushing forward with a 600-hour bench test of 3D printed camshaft bearing caps and rocker arms. They will use these parts on a DTI 5 four-cylinder Euro 6 engine. The test is to see whether the parts could withstand the load that an engine would go through within those 600 hours.
Trucking companies can expect to pay higher costs for additive manufactured items during the early stages. But those costs will go down in time, as the process is streamlined. Moreover, it is the quick turnaround time that is the most attractive quality of 3D printed parts for the trucking industry right now. The idea that parts could be printed out and delivered within one or two days would be a huge advantage, given the high costs of downtime within the industry.
Printing Parts While Driving to a Customer?
The product distribution industry is also taking full advantage of 3D printing. UPS already has more than 50 3D printing locations around the United States. It is possible for customers to print 3D CAD files at those locations. And UPS is taking another step in the 3D printing revolution by mounting 3D printers to delivery trucks.
The idea is that a delivery truck would begin the journey to a customer, while the 3D printer would be printing out the product the customer is buying en route. It would save a lot of time and allow companies to deliver products to customers within a day or even a few hours. The initial idea is to create the service for businesses that need fast parts or prototypes, but it may evolve into commercial products in the future.
Moreover, given the close relationship between the product distribution and trucking industries, it will be interesting to see how the changes brought about by 3D printing will play out. Will trucking companies be able to handle a significant change to their business? Instead of shipping consumer products, they would be shipping the parts that go into 3D printers to produce those items. The world is watching 3D printing very closely – eager to see what changes it will bring to various industries around the world. The trucking industry is now beginning to understand the value of 3D printed parts for its engines and other components, while the product distribution industry may be 3D printing products for consumers within a few years!