How Printing could disrupt Asia’s manufacturing industries

These reductions could have a significant impact on regional and international production networks. They may reduce capital requirements and the need for warehousing, logistics, and transportation. This shift in production systems may alter the idea of economic security for nations.

This could ruin carefully planned development plans of countries for employment, investment, and logistics, regardless of their economic level. What could happen to a global production network under such a powerful technology?

Manufacturing is a very attractive business.

The introduction of 3D Printing could create a new system, unleashing disruptive power not seen since the Industrial Revolution. This disruption may turn existing production processes and the global supply chains on their head.

The Ford assembly line was based on the concept of economies of scale. The theory states that each unit will cost less to produce if you make large quantities of a product.

India became the world’s top destination for foreign direct investments (FDI) after the launch of the program. It received US$63 billion, surpassing the United States. The initiative’s premise is that FDI will create jobs in the manufacturing industry. The 3D printing technology is a threat to the success of this initiative and similar ones.

Supply Chains and Beyond

3D Printing is unique in that it reduces the complexity. Costs, parts, and assembly steps can be reduced. Ford Motor Company, which invented the assembly line, now uses 3D printers to produce and assemble prototyping. According to the company’s expert in additive manufacturing, these prototypes are ready for testing within a week. They used to take eight to sixteen weeks and cost $100,000.

3D Printing offers the possibility of new design options that can be altered or tweaked according to personal preference, even at short notice. In the future, companies may ship designs instead of actual products. This will change how we think about logistics and stock. The end user can print or “manufacture” these designs at their location of choice.

A toucan in Costa Rica eats his 3D-printed 3D beak after losing most of its upper beak during an attack. Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

This will reduce the capital expenditure for infrastructure, as 3D-printing services can function in smaller spaces than traditional manufacturing industries. This can reduce the need for storage and transportation, including cross-border shipments.

In this way, 3D Printing can challenge economies of size in the manufacturing industry and reduce global supply chains from multiple production sites to a network consisting of material suppliers for 3D printers and final producers near or at the end-user.

This could be the beginning of a shift from mass production to one that is more tailored, with mass-produced items being created according to customer specifications. This will result in the production of multiple variations of a particular product, but with low quantities.

A scenario like this would not be static. 3D Printing fits well into the current high-mix, low-volume method. Over time, this technology could disrupt mass production.

Changes ahead

This will have a direct impact on global supply chains, affecting jobs in manufacturing and logistics in many countries. The changes in the economic model from one of many to one of few would have a profound impact on cargo transportation, port configuration, and other aspects.

Land-zoning policies need to be revised in light of the dramatic technological changes that have swept through manufacturing. 3D Printing has the potential to eliminate large-scale manufacturing plants. Many small and medium businesses could now produce bespoke products as 3D printers.

French violinist and engineer Laurent Bernadac shows off a 3D-printed violin made from transparent resin. Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Does it make sense then to maintain the current division between industrial zones versus non-industrial areas? It would be necessary for countries that have invested huge amounts of money in developing industrial estates with the aim of attracting manufacturing companies to create jobs to rethink their future manufacturing plants.

Even with the record-breaking FDI flowing into India, such changes could prompt a review of initiatives like Make in India. This initiative, given the rapid technological change, may not translate into greater job creation even though we are a few short years away from “printed economies.”

This new wave will affect even the factory of the planet, China. The industrialization plan for southwest China will require more than just cost-competitiveness and the excellent network that China has built along its east coast in the past 30 years.

ASEAN’s Economic Community Blueprint for 2025 is another initiative that will be affected. The key goal is to make the region a more integrated and cohesive economy through greater regional participation in global supply chains. The pursuit of global supply chain networks in the manufacturing industry will also need to be critically reviewed.

3D Printing may require a transformation outside of the manufacturing industry. It will have a direct impact on urban planning, land use policy, sea and airport developments for cargo, and, perhaps more importantly, the creation of jobs for the masses, especially in developing countries, as a way to achieve upward mobility.

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