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December 18, 2017
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Research: 3-D printing looms large over logistics

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Logistics service providers differ in their predictions of how three-dimensional printing could affect their industry.

A majority of logistics service providers that participated in a survey conducted by the research and events firm eyefortransport (EFT) predicted that three-dimensional (3-D) printing would affect their business. Three-dimensional printing—or additive manufacturing, as it's sometimes called—uses a special printer to apply powdered or liquid forms of such materials as plastic, metal, and ceramics in layers to create an object. Some industry experts believe that it could transform manufacturing by allowing companies or even consumers to make many products to order. Because of its capability for on-demand production, 3-D printing could mean that companies will be able to hold less parts and product inventory.

Seventy-two percent of the 160 logistics service providers participating in the survey said that 3-D printing would have some degree of impact on third-party logistics, and just under 9 percent said that it would be a "game changer" for their industry. Finally, 19 percent said they believe it will have no impact.

EFT also asked respondents whether they see this technology as a threat. Thirty-seven percent said they see 3-D printing as a business opportunity, while 35 percent labeled the technology both a threat and an opportunity. A mere 4 percent view 3-D printing as a threat, while 24 percent said it was neither a threat nor an opportunity.

In addition to logistics companies, EFT surveyed manufacturers about the future impact of 3-D printing. Nearly 12 percent of the 89 manufacturing respondents said that 3-D printing would become a significant part of the manufacturing process, while a little more than 37 percent said it would only play a small part. Around 51 percent, however, foresaw no impact. Interestingly, nearly 20 percent of the manufacturers surveyed said they were already using 3-D printing in some capacity.

The survey results are included in EFT's "3-D Printing Package," which contains articles and research on the topic.

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