Hellenic Open University Conferences, International Conference on Business & Economics of the Hellenic Open University 2017

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3D printing technology transforms the Value Chain of production
Evgenia Fronimaki, Maria Mavri

##manager.scheduler.building##: Titania
##manager.scheduler.room##: Omiros
Date: 2017-04-22 02:00 PM – 04:00 PM
Last modified: 2017-04-11


Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a technological process that converts digital files into solid objects. These objects are first designed on computer software or scanned through a 3D scanner and then manufactured by a 3D printer.

AM industry although it is 30 years old, it became popular from 2009. AM in 2016 was assessed at more than $3 billion, with an expected rise to $13 billion by 2018 and $21 billion by 2020.

AM was used primarily to manufacture prototypes and mockups but the next step was to print replacement parts, artificial limbs, dental crowns, clothes, shoes, weapons, hearing aid molds, toys, jewelry, surgery models, racing cars F1, furniture, food and so on. 3D printers are gaining in popularity, especially among businesses and educational institutions. According to the literature by 2025 there will be five main markets for the additive industry: consumer products; aerospace manufacturing; automotive; production of medical components and production tools.

3D printing technology changes production chain, and more specifically the stages of design, production and sales. In more details, in AM process, the designer is free to design a product without restrictions. Shapes that until recently could not be manufactured, can be printed now. Concerning the production stage, many changes have been noticed: (1) printed objects are either products ready for use, or are components of finished goods. This signifies that intermediate processes are limited or at sometimes absent (2) small or large quantities of customized goods could be produced at relatively low costs, as small changes at digital file before printing in order to satisfy customers’ special needs are very easy (3) better use of materials, as no scraps and less waste materials are also noticed (4) minimum inventory cost as no finished goods are stored, only digital files are stored by industries. Finally, what is really innovative is that products are paid before being printed. Customers instead of buying products, buy digital files, objects are printed after sales. This means that sales come first in the production process.

Based on the above, we claim that 3D printing technology could affect and change the value chain. Porter (1985) states that “the idea of the value chain is based on the process view of organizations, the idea of seeing a manufacturing (or service) organization as a system, made up of subsystems each with inputs, transformation processes and outputs. Inputs, transformation processes, and outputs involve the acquisition and consumption of resources – money, labour, materials, equipment, buildings, land, administration and management. How value chain activities are carried out determines costs and affects profits”. 3D printing is a new simple manufacturing procedure, with less production steps, with small number of suppliers and with no inventory. Hence, the redefinition of production cost seems to be necessary.

The scope of this paper is: (a) to describe the new ecosystem of 3D printing technology and the changes that will be occurred at production chain, (b) to enlighten the corresponding changes at value chain and finally (c) to propose a framework for evaluating the cost of printed objects. In order to meet these goals, we try to identify factors that affect aspects of 3D printing manufacturing procedure such as operations, logistics, marketing, human resources, and infrastructure.


3D printing; value chain; manufacturing procedure

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