The Impact of 3D Printers in the Logistics Industry. How could this technology change logistics and how should the logistics industry react to this advancement?

Bachelor Thesis 2014 41 Pages

Business economics - Supply, Production, Logistics


Table of Contents

List of Tables:

List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem
1.2 Objective of the thesis
1.3 Procedure

2 Additive Manufacturing Processes and their Applications
2.1 Definition and Classification Process
2.2 Access to the Public: FabLabs
2.3 3D Printer
2.3.1 Definition and Development
2.3.2 Operation of the Layer Construction
2.3.3 Advantages and Potential Compared to Conventional Production Methods
2.3.4 Current State of Technology

3 Definition and Theory of Disruptive Technology
3.1 Characterization and Classification of the Concept
3.2 Presentation of the Theory of Clayton Christensen
3.3 Dealing with Disruptive Technology

4 The Influence of 3D Printers in the Logistics Industry
4.1 Current Situation and Perception in Practice
4.2 Causes for the Hype
4.3 Impact on the Logistics Industry and Critical Considerations

5 Future Scenarios Based on Additive Manufacturing

6 Summary and Outlook

7 Endnotes

8 Bibliography

9 Internet Sources

List of Tables:

Tab. 2-1: Classification of Solid Raw Material

Tab. 2-2: Classification of Liquid or Gaseous Raw Material

Tab. 2-3: Overview of the Current 3D Printing Process

List of Abbreviations

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1 Introduction

1.1 Problem

The market situation tends to move towards shorter development times and, at the same time, increases product complexity and the demand for individual products.1 Against this backdrop, "additive manufacturing processes" have proven to be effective tools. They allow a fast process in product manufacturing.

In recent years, these methods have been further developed, especially the 3D printing process has experienced significant improvements in quality, precision and material range.2 The main advantage of said method is that it can be produced directly from CAD data to the computer via the 3D printer.3 In addition, virtually any desired geometries can be produced.4,5 Thus, one can create, for example, nested cavities that with the classical injection molding would only be possible with increased effort or not even at all.

Today, not only plastics can be printed into physical objects, but also raw materials ranging from concrete to paper and metal.6,7 Bioengineers can, under laboratory conditions, print human tissue structures of living cells with their medical printers.8 The manufacturing industry has already taken advantage of this technology and uses it to produce prototypes, small series parts and tools.9

Alongside the illustrated technological development, the production and innovation activities have been increasingly focused more towards customers.10,11,12 For this type of process design, the customer is integrated into a section of the value chain of the company and undertakes activities that previously were performed by the company. Thus, in the field of telecommunications, the configuration of a mobile phone contract is carried out by the customer online.13

Currently, many 3D printing events are taking place.14,15,16,17 Intensive debates are being held about an upcoming industrial revolution.18,19,20,21 This is characterized by a complete shift in production and innovation activities to the customer and is referred to in practice as "democratization of production".22 Accordingly, the customer is not only able to devise, but also to independently produce.23 This is possible because of the 3D printer.

Against this backdrop, the global management consultancy McKinsey & Company referred to the 3D printer as a disruptive technology.24 Accordingly, this technology is capable of fundamentally changing entire markets and value chains.25

If this is the case, the development will also influence the logistics industry. How could this technology change logistics, and how should the logistics industry react to this advancement? "Let's wait and see" would probably be the worst strategic position in today's dynamic environment. The music and film industry massively underestimated the development of digitization for decades. Now huge sums are invested in the fight against illegal platforms.26

1.2 Objective of the thesis

The present drafting aims to answer the questions previously posed in the problem with regard to the development of the 3D printer. Accordingly, the objective of this thesis is to show the influence of the technological and social development associated with 3D printing technology, present in the logistics industry, and to introduce, based on a designed future scenario, possible areas of activity in this sector.

1.3 Procedure

First, in chapters two and three, the principles of the present preparation are dealt with. This chapter includes two additive fabrication methods. In particular, in addition to the definition and method of Systematics, high-tech laboratories, called FabLabs, and 3D

printers are discussed in this section. Here, the greatest attention is given to the 3D printer, because the main applications of additive manufacturing processes lie in the 3D printing technology.

In the media and in practice, the additive manufacturing process is often said to have a disruptive effect. For this reason, chapter three deals with the theory of Clayton Christensen. The most important form of this theory is shown and concludes with recommendations for dealing with disruptive technologies.

Building on these foundations, Chapter 4 demonstrates possible effects of 3D printers on the logistics industry. First, the perception and prevailing situation in practice is shown in the first section. Here, not only the utterances of logistics companies are included, but also those of a business consultant and leading thinker of our time. The second section consists in compliance with given restrictions of printing technology with potential impacts apart from the logistics sector. The social change that is initiated by the 3D printer is the focus of critical analysis. Thereafter, in the last section, a future scenario based on the new additive manufacturing processes for the logistics industry is developed. It indicates possible future business models for the logistics industry. A summary and an outlook are included in the last chapter.

2 Additive Manufacturing Processes and their Applications

2.1 Definition and Classification Process

To get an overview, it is necessary to classify the process. In Germany, these are divided in detail into six main groups according to the DIN 8580, and then this group is divided into subgroups. The additive manufacturing processes are still not assigned to the main group in DIN 8580 (2003).

However, it seems reasonable to incorporate these into the main group 1 (archetypes) because the required feature of the material cohesion is achieved by this method. By contrast, restrictions arise for a further subdivision according to the subgroups. Accordingly, a subdivision of all additive procedures according to DIN 8580 (2003) is not applicable or only has a limited practical application.

On the other hand, the coarser division that is common in the Anglo-Saxon countries can be clearly performed at this point.27 The generation of the geometry has a decisive influence on the structuring of the manufacturing process under this classification system. Thus, the whole manufacturing process is divided into three classes:

- Subtractive manufacturing processes
- Formative manufacturing processes
- Additive manufacturing processes

Subtractive manufacturing contains all ablative methods such as turning, milling, etc. Through this type of production, the desired geometry is generated from a semi-finished product through the removal of excess raw material.28

By contrast, in the formative manufacturing process, the given volume of a semi-finished product is reshaped into the desired geometry by an acting mold.29 Forging and stamping fall under this category.

Additive manufacturing is a consecutive procedure.30 That means it includes all procedures that add raw material successively, element-wise or by adding layers to create the desired geometry.31 The main applications of the additive method are in 3D printing technology.32

In practice and literature, the terms "generative manufacturing" or "rapid technology" are used analogously to the term "additive manufacturing". Moreover, different terms are used which are derived from the desired outcome of the procedure.33 Thus, the term "rapid tooling" is used when a tool is made. The process of producing prototypes is called "rapid prototyping". Additive manufacturing refers to the production of the end product, but numerous equivalent terms have been established in the industry such as "rapid manufacturing", "digital fabrication", "e-manufacturing", "digital manufacturing" or "direct manufacturing".34

In practice, it means that from a formless or formed neutral starting material a required object is created by means of chemical and/or physical processes that are based on computer-internal data models. For most additive methods, starting materials are used which are in a solid state. These include wire, powder, sheet and film. These solid materials are combined, for example, through targeted technical melting and freezing or cutting and gluing.35 These strengthening mechanisms are dependent on the process. Cutting and gluing characterizes the layer laminate method, whereas the procedures of sintering, extrusion and melting are characterized by a hardening mechanism that melts and solidifies.

In the 3D printing process, the solidification mechanism is achieved by adhesive bonding using a chemical binder or polymerization. The largest plurality of materials is found in powder-based processes. Tab. 2-1 shows additive methods, whose starting materials are present in a solid state.

If the starting material is liquid or gaseous, procedures such as stereolithography, aerosol printing and laser chemical vapor deposition (LCVD) are used in the context of additive manufacturing.36

For the raw materials that are considered here, solidification is affected by polymerization, deposition and chemical reaction. In Tab. 2-2, the mentioned hardening mechanisms are associated with the procedures and clearly displayed.

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Tab. 2-1: Classification by solid raw material37

There is currently on the market a manageable material selection. Theoretically there can be a variety of materials with the additive manufacturing process, but the accompanying material qualification is complex.38,39 The Guideline VDI 3405 Part 1 summarizes the main aspects that are of importance during the additive manufacturing of polymeric components.

In the past, the additive manufacturing was first used only for the production of prototypes and functional models in the industry. Today, this method is used in small series productions in addition to its classical use. In industries such as equipment manufacturing, aerospace, tooling and molding, automotive manufacturing, the jewelry industry and medical technology, additive manufacturing is used.40,41,42,43 Because of the so-called FabLabs, the interest of consumers for these technologies has also been aroused and access has been made available.44

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Tab. 2-2: Classification by liquid or gaseous raw material45

2.2 Access to the Public: FabLabs

FabLabs bring the additive manufacturing process, that was previously used exclusively in industry, to the general public. The advantages and possibilities of this technology are presented to the interested consumers, and simultaneously enable FabLabs a free or low cost access to industrial tools and procedures.

The actual name "FabLab" is a composition of the words "Fabrication" and "Laboratory". In these fabrication laboratories, enthusiasts meet and exchange knowledge and expertise.46 Among the interested parties there are not only creative personalities and hobbyists, but often engineers and designers. As part of the knowledge transmission, many workshops and seminars are organized by the community.

There are no access permissions or barriers. Everyone who is interested in technology is welcome. Moreover, they are often organized as non-profit associations and use common global standard equipment.47 In addition to 3D printers and 3D scanners, CNC machines and laser cutters are provided for free production.48

The FabLab community optimized and further developed the initial weaker versions of the 3D printer. In 2006, the public was introduced to a 3D printing system called RepRap.49 RepRap is not a closed system, but is based on open source hardware. The price of a RepRap kit is about $500. A structured investment costs about $800 US dollars.50 Through the support of the community everyone will theoretically be able to recreate their own RepRap.51

Through these non-profit associations the individual users have the opportunity to get to know industrial production methods and are enabled to use them. In addition, users within the community can create and produce products and/or equipment, like the 3D printer, for their own use. The user is no longer dependent on prefabricated and usually expensive solutions of industrial enterprises.

The FabLabs developed from the idea of the American physicist Neil Gershenfeld. He motivated his students in 1998 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a course entitled "How to make almost anything" to "prefer to create rather than consume".52,53

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Fig. 2-1: FabLab in the Nuremberg region54

The success of the course led to the establishment of the world's first FabLabs at MIT in 2002.55 The following year a FabLab was founded outside MIT - in Boston. After that, a global expansion followed. 56 Today, there are over 100 FabLabs, and currently there is no end in sight for further expansion.57 The first FabLab in Germany was established in 2009 at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTHA), and since then some more are in the works.58 Fig. 2-1 shows the FabLab of the Nuremberg Region.

2.3 3D Printer

2.3.1 Definition and Development

3D printing, also known under the English terms "Fabbing" or "additive manufacturing", is a production process in which physical products are transformed into tangible objects according to the digital document by using 3D printers. 59 In this process, the object is produced by applying layer after layer of one or more materials such as plastic, ceramic or metal.60 The main applications of additive processes are exactly in this 3D printing technology.61

The first working 3D printer was invented by Charles W. Hull in 1984 and "3D Systems" were put on sale by his company in 1986.62 Hulls machine was based on the method of stereolithography (STL).63 This 3D printing process is based on a laser that reacts to ultraviolet-sensitive dissolved plastic granules and hardens the granules. The type of laser used depends on the raw material to be processed, however, the Nd: YAG laser for curing liquid materials is the most commonly used.64

Originally, this procedure was developed for the industry in order to produce prototypes, models or samples quickly and inexpensively.65 Due to its further development, the technology was implemented into the field of rapid tooling. Accordingly, with the present additive manufacturing process, tools and molds were prepared.66

Since then, a variety of different 3D printing processes have been developed, which differ depending on the manufacturer, the printer and the expected results. However, they are, in principle, very similar and only differ slightly.67 In Tab. 2-3, the basic procedures are illustrated by the processed materials.68

In recent years, this process has undergone significant improvements in quality, accuracy and price-performance ratio.69,70 In contrast, the material selection is still limited, especially in the semi-professional equipment.71

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Tab. 2-3: Overview of the current 3D printing process72

2.3.2 Operation of the Layer Construction

With the help of a 3D editing program, a digital blueprint can be created on a computer that contains the instructions for the 3D printer, and the material being processed can be transformed into tangible objects by the layer construction. 73 There are now more inexpensive or free 3D editing programs with user-friendly interfaces like SketchUp74 and Tinkercad75.

3D objects may be prepared in different ways according to the layer construction.76 3D printing basically works on the same principle as a standard 2D printer, except that another layer is printed onto the completed 2D layer.77 This ultimately results in a desired three-dimensional structure. In Fig. 2-2, the operation of the 3D printer is visualized and then explained step by step.

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Fig. 2-2: Basic process description of the layer construction78

First, the desired component is created using a suitable CAD software (e.g. AutoCAD) or the desired object is digitized with a 3D scanner.79,80 Then the virtual model is disassembled horizontally through the software into individual layers. This process is referred to as "slicing." Special software exists, especially for this process, such as Slic3r. After slicing, individual printing layers of the CAD model are available. Next, the actual printing can begin. The individual printing layers of the slicing process are subsequently printed or constructed. Before the print job is sent to the printer, the software generates support material in addition to the necessary material. In this step, protruding or overhanging elements of the component are stabilized.

At the end of the printing process, the component is physically present. However, the support material adheres to the component. To finally obtain the desired component, the supporting material must be removed by suitable reworking. The extent and thus the finishing time which is necessary to turn a component into the desired state vary with the manufacturing process.8


1 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, n.p.

2 cf. Fastermann P. Die Macher der dritten industriellen Revolution, p. 20

3 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, p. 316

4 cf. Witt G. Taschenbuch der Fertigungstechnik, p. 297

5 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, p. 21

6 cf. www.bit.ly/1uVhRos (06.06.2014)

7 cf. Saheb A. Die Fabrik im Wohnzimmer, p. 40

8 cf. www.bit.ly/1qH24vA (07.06.2014)

9 cf. Fastermann P. 3D-Druck/Rapid Prototyping, pp. 91-109

10 cf. Voß G. G./ Rieder K. Der arbeitende Kunde, p. 152 f.

11 cf. Blätter-Mink B./ Ebner A. Innovationssysteme, p. 51 f.

12 cf. Reichwald R./ Piller F. Interaktive Wertschöpfung, p. 45 ff.

13 cf. www.t-mobile.de/?set-mobile-cookie=true (10.06.2014)

14 cf. www.mm-logistik.vogel.de/lagertechnik/articles/410437/ (08.06.2014)

15 cf. www.ulricheggert.de/Presseberichte/3D-Printing_2.pdf (08.06.2014)

16 cf. www.logistik-journal.de/index.cfm?pid=1667=144934#.U6gQwvl_vAk (08.06.2014)

17 cf. www.vdi-nachrichten.com/Technik-Gesellschaft/Druck-Ersatzteillogistik (09.2014)

18 cf. www.thethirdindustrialrevolution.com/ (08.06.2014)

19 cf. www.bit.ly/1pDn8S4 (06.06.2014)

20 cf. Horsch F. 3D-Druck für alle, p. 38

21 cf. Anderson C. Makers, pp. 19 f.

22 cf. Rifkin J. Die dritte industrielle Revolution, p. 13

23 cf. Bergmann G./ Daub J. Das menschliche Maß, p. 141

24 cf. www.bit.ly/1l10UZH (06.06.2014)

25 cf. Christensen C./ Matzler K./ Friedrich St. The Innovator`s Dilemma, pp. 6 f.

26 cf. www.bit.ly/1m4DZrd (08.06.2014)

27 cf. www.ennex.com/~fabbers/publish/199308-MB-HouseholdFab.asp (10.06.2014)

28 cf. Matthes K. J. Grundlagen der Fertigungstechnik, p. 322

29 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, p. 1

30 cf. Eschey Ch. Maschinenspezifische Erhöhung, pp. 7 f.

31 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, p. 2

32 cf. www.bit.ly/1loSvOZ ( 09.06.2014)

33 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, pp. 6 f.

34 cf. www.bit.ly/1q2RW0f (06.06.2014)

35 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, p. 91

36 cf. Based on Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, p. 91

37 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, pp. 46 – 78

38 cf. www.bit.ly/1q6mU7T (20.06.2014)

39 cf. www.bit.ly/1mcEsHC (18.06.2014)

40 cf. Zäh M. F. Wirtschaftliche Fertigung mit Rapid-Technologie, pp. 199 ff.

41 cf. www.eos.info/additive_fertigung/fuer_technologie_interessierte (12.06.2014)

42 cf. www.automobil-industrie.vogel.de/zulieferer/articles/446533/ (12.06.2014)

43 cf. Fastermann P. 3D-Druck/Rapid Prototyping, pp. 76 f.

44 cf. Chapter 2.2

45 Referring to Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, pp. 46 – 78

46 cf. Fastermann P. 3D-Drucker, pp. 57 ff.

47 cf. Borchers J./ Bohne R. Personal Design, pp. 306 f.

48 cf. Ebner M./ Schön S. Lehrbuch für Lernen und Lehren mit Technologien, p. 450

49 cf. Horsch F. 3D-Druck für alle, p. 161

50 cf. www.reprap.org/wiki/RepRap (20.06.2014)

51 cf. Fastermann P. 3D-Druck/Rapid Prototyping, pp. 41 ff.

52 cf. Borchers J./ Bohne R. Personal Design, pp. 306 f.

53 cf. Fastermann P. 3D-Druck/Rapid Prototyping, pp. 49 f.

54 cf. www.wiki.fablab-nuernberg.de/w/Datei:FabLab_Willkommen.jpg (21.06.2014)

55 cf. Gershenfeld N. Fab: The Coming Revolution, p. 12

56 cf. www.fabacademy.org/fab-academy-2014-sites/ (20.06.2014)

57 cf. Gershenfeld N. How to make almost anything, pp. 46 f.

58 cf. www.3druck.com/fablabs-liste/ (20.06.2014)

59 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, pp. 422 f.

60 cf. Fastermann P. 3D-Druck/Rapid Prototyping, pp. 7 ff.

61 cf. www.bit.ly/1loSvOZ ( 09.06.2014)

62 cf. Hutchings I. M./ Martin G. D. Inkjet Technology for Digital Fabrication, p. 326

63 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, pp. 47 ff.

64 cf. Völklein F./ Zetterer T. Praxiswissen Mikrosystemtechnik, p. 129

65 cf. Zäh M. F. Wirtschaftliche Fertigung mit Rapid-Technologie, p. 86

66 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, p. 11

67 cf. www.bit.ly/1pk5WU4 (14.06.2014)

68 Gebhardt „Generative Fertigungsverfahren“ 2013.

69 cf. www.tagesanzeiger.ch/19513551/print.html (15.06.2014)

70 cf. www.bit.ly/1loSvOZ (09.06.2014)

71 cf. www.bit.ly/1lQmPBR (20.06.2014)

72 cf. Gebhardt A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren, pp. 111 – 285

73 cf. Horsch F. 3D-Druck für alle, p. 15

74 cf. www.sketchup.com (15.06.2014)

75 cf. www.tinkercad.com (15.06.2014)

76 cf. Tab. 2-3 im Kapitel 2.3.1

77 cf. www.ulricheggert.de/Presseberichte/3D-Druck-HobbyArt-1-14.pdf (16.06.2014)

78 based on Fastermann P. 3D-Druck/Rapid Prototyping, pp. 15 ff.

79 cf. A. Generative Fertigungsverfahren (2007), pp. 11ff.

80 cf. Fastermann P. 3D-Druck/Rapid Prototyping, pp. 13 – 17



Title: The Impact of 3D Printers in the Logistics Industry. How could this technology change logistics and how should the logistics industry react to this advancement?