3D Printing will make manufacturing local

The factory of the future will be a giant, mobile 3D printer that relocates and creates on demand, according to Europe’s workforce

3D Printing will make manufacturing local

Consumer demands are changing and manufacturing will need to adapt. The modern landscape is one of fast-paced demand, where the gap between consumer desire and what they acquire lessens each day and where the thirst for personalisation is growing.

In this wave of technological transformation, 3D printing offers a powerful tool for manufacturing. It is the forefront of a revolution that will lead to a future of smarter factories, shorter supply chains and localised response to demand. According to Epson research, this revolution won’t be limited to speed of supply. In fact, 65 percent of the European manufacturing workforce believes the quality of goods will improve as a result of new technologies.

This is one of a number of significant findings from new Epson research into the expected impact of disruptive technologies on key sectors in Europe over the coming decade. This research was based on interviews with 17 high-level thought leaders, whose hypotheses were then tested against the perception of over 7,000 European business leaders and employees.

Print on demand

With 3D printing’s role in manufacturing becoming increasingly significant, we’re entering a landscape of hyper-local, hyper-personalised products. Manufacturing finds itself driven by a retail sector reacting to the emerging trend of ‘what you see is what you can print’ (WYSIWYP). Consumers can now pick and personalise items to a detailed level, providing an alternative to the traditional ‘buy what’s on offer’ model.

3D printing is the lynchpin to this changing retail landscape according to Futurist, Christopher Barnett. And its benefits are not limited to the personalisation of goods. This technology enables us to print items with multiple parts in one go, simplifying complex supply chains.

Shorter supply chains

Across industries from aerospace to medicine, 3D printing will enable significant material savings while facilitating more customised manufacturing, generating the emergence of new cross-industry business ecosystems. While traditional factory models will still have an important role to play, 57 percent of manufacturing workers believe that overall, production facilities will become more localised.

In this new environment, experts argue factories will evolve towards becoming giant mobile printers, relocated to the site of demand in areas such as city centres. Our research reveals that 65 percent of manufacturing workers believe this will result in products that are printed on demand, not manufactured in bulk.

Much of this might sound like a distant ambition, but it’s already a manufacturing reality. Epson has already demonstrated the eye-catching potential of on-demand textile printing in the clothing industry1, and the integration of 3D printing in healthcare, manufacturing, product design and other industries is already delivering tangible benefits.

Enabling local benefits

3D printing is the catalyst for a local revolution, with 60 percent of manufacturing workers arguing it will enable manufacturing industries to reshore and localise activities. When combined with the capability of factories to remotely identify demand, production will become faster, cheaper and more able to offer the on-demand production that the market is coming to expect.

Ultimately 40 percent of those surveyed within manufacturing believe 3D printing will lead to supply chains that are shorter, stronger and more tightly aligned. Customised manufacturing is set to disrupt mass global production as we know it, and as with any such disruption, it will be how we react that will dictate our level of success.  3D printing will offer positive change to manufacturing in organisations that are willing to adapt, and in doing so provide considerable benefits to business, the environment and the societies that we live in.

Want to know more?

The full report has all the insights, you can download it here: