What is 3D Printing?
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
Utilizing additive processes, 3D-printed objects are produced. In an additive process, an object is made by adding layers of material until the product is made. It is possible to think of each level as a finely sliced cross-section of the item.
Subtractive manufacturing, which involves hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic using a milling machine, is the reverse of 3D printing. With 3D printing, you can create intricate forms with less material than with conventional production techniques.
Significance of 3D Printing in Construction/Infrastructure Supply Chain Management
Construction supply chain management could be transforming because of 3D printing technology. Construction businesses can now generate sophisticated, specialized parts and components on demand thanks to 3D printing, which eliminates the need for massive inventory and boosts supply chain agility. Here are some ways that 3D printing can impact supply chain management in the construction industry:
Reduced lead times
3D printing can significantly reduce lead times by enabling construction companies to produce parts and components on demand, without the need for complex and time-consuming tooling and production processes.
Improved supply chain flexibility
3D printing allows for the rapid production of custom parts and components, enabling construction companies to respond quickly to changes in demand and supply chain disruptions.
Lower inventory costs
By producing parts and components on demand, construction companies can reduce the need for large inventories, freeing up working capital and reducing inventory carrying costs.
Increased product innovation
3D printing enables construction companies to produce highly complex and customized parts and components, enabling new levels of product innovation and differentiation.
3D printing can help to reduce waste and improve sustainability by enabling construction companies to produce only the parts and components that are needed, reducing the need for overproduction and excess inventory.
Application & Examples of 3D Printing Technology in Construction Supply Chain Management
By employing 3D printing, businesses may manufacture parts internally, minimizing their reliance on outside suppliers and lowering the likelihood of supply chain interruptions. Additionally, this technology makes it possible to produce customized parts, which decreases waste and boosts supply chain effectiveness. 3D printing technology was employed to provide medical supplies and equipment during the COVID-19 epidemic.
The creation of concrete components using 3D printing technology is one instance of how the technology is employed in the building supply chain management. In the construction industry, concrete is a popular building material, and 3D printing has the possibility to generate highly customized and complicated components that may be utilized in a range of construction projects.
One company that is using 3D printing in construction supply chain management is Icon, a startup based in Austin, Texas. Icon has developed a 3D printing technology called “Vulcan”, which can print concrete components at a rate of up to 24 square meters per hour. The company has used this technology to produce components for affordable housing projects in the United States and Mexico, with the goal of using 3D printing to reduce the cost and time required to build housing.
One more instance is by Larsen & Toubro (L&T), that is in India’s Bengaluru city by utilizing 3D printing technology to construct the country’s first-of-its-kind post office building. The project, which is being constructed by Larsen & Toubro (L&T), is expected to be completed within a record time of 45 days. The construction site is unlike any other, with a 3D printer at the forefront and the minimal presence of cement heaps and a construction crew. Also, the cost of construction is also similar to the construction done through conventional methods.
The manufacture of steel components using 3D printing technology is a further example of how the technology is employed in the building supply chain management. Another common building material is steel, and 3D printing can create intricate and highly customized steel components that may be used to a range of construction projects.
MX3D, a firm located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is one business that uses 3D printing to create steel components for building projects. A 3D printing method created by MX3D can create steel components with complicated shapes that may be utilized in a range of engineering and architectural applications. The business employed this technology to create a steel bridge in Amsterdam that was built of 3D-printed steel parts.
The use of 3D printing technologies in the infrastructure supply chain has a promising future. By making manufacturing processes within the building supply chain redundant and enabling the development of non-conventional construction components, 3D printing has the potential to increase resilience and alleviate supply chain disruptions. We may anticipate seeing more effective, affordable, and sustainable ways to construct structures as technology develops.