3D printing will revolutionize logistics?

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The giant of international shipping UPS  has recently activated a pilot program” to provide an extra service to its customers: manage production, assembly and customized shipments using the 3D printing technology. Can we talk about revolution?

For some of its most important clients UPS already operates  an assembly service for products with a high number of combinations of elements chosen by the end customer, highly customized goods such as golf clubs. The logic and procedures that direct this kind of goods can well interact with 3D printing, but to work they need a dedicated corporate structure and procedures. At CES 2016, in the 3D printing dedicated space, InformationWeek interviewed Alan Amling vice president of marketing by detailing the project and expectations that may be generated.


It is undoubtedly a strategic change in the provision of UPS services and assumes both an internal reorganization of the supplier and an adaptation of customer’s processes, in particular with respect to the issue of modeling files of its products and the sharing with the supplier to manufacturing. The files must be constantly updated and built respecting precise and solid parameters to maximize dialogue with the rapid prototyping machines and ensure the end result (for details we suggest you to read our articleHow to create a perfect .stl file“).

UPS currently identified in the market of spare parts not required the most potential for the development of this service, as often producing by the original manufacturer may be too expensive and long in the face of the time/cost of the customer needs. Certainly the efficiency of a service of this kind lies in the accuracy of the file, in the correspondence of the material proposed by 3D printing compared to orginal material and cost benefits obtained by delegating reproduction of the elements to a forwarding agent or a third party.


The pilot point of the project is the Louisville distribution center in Kentucky, equipped with hundreds of industrial 3D printers, ready to put into production orders received from the Web. At the moment is an experiment and Amling is cautious in making long-term forecasts and on a large scale: the system must be developed and UPS shall be satisfied to guarantee the quality standards that characterize their supply chain. There is a strong desire by the company to thoroughly investigate the matter in order to propose the best possible service, in fact revolutionizing the world supply chain.

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