Sep 22, 2016 | By Alec

It’s no secret that UPS is very eager to integrate industrial on-demand 3D printing into their delivery services, but setting up a system worthy of the UPS label takes some time. Back in May, the United Parcel Service revealed a new collaboration with German software developers SAP, who will set up a platform to connect a client’s factory floor with UPS’s 3D printing systems. While the service itself won’t be operational until 2017, the two partners are clearly making progress. They have just launched the SAP Distributed Manufacturing early adopter program, with the purpose of exploring their growing services and testing new industrial 3D printing solutions with new external partners.

All this is being done in an attempt to set up what could be the most extensive, efficient and far-reaching 3D printing service around, which caters to every wish of professional clients. It should become possible, depending on the submitted part, “to take an order in the early evening and have the part made and delivered the next day,” Alan Amling, vice president of UPS Supply Chain Solutions, revealed back in May. This requires nothing less than the transformation of industrial 3D printing into a seamless distributed manufacturing platform.

But as the case for every major distribution network, testing is everything. That’s why SAP and UPS have now launched their SAP Distributed Manufacturing website, which they hope will attract new partners to the program. “SAP is seeking innovative companies to join our SAP Distributed Manufacturing early adopter program. This program will connect the manufacturers to the global network of industrial 3D printing service providers with on-demand production capabilities and global logistics networks. Get access to same-day 3D printing shipment for better customer satisfaction,” they say.

Of course this move will have advantages for clients as well, as they will have first-mover access for new and possibly paradigm-shifting 3D printing solutions. According to SAP, their system will definitely help partners get products to market faster and more cost-effectively. Design, manufacturing, logistics and entire business models can be affected, they say. If successful, SAP and UPS will in turn receive new assessment, validation and improvement feedback for their extended 3D printing supply chain.

So far, the response has been good. Several big names in the industrial and 3D printing markets have already started experimenting with this SAP/UPS platform. Among others, Airbus APWorks, Fast Radius, HP Inc., Krones, Linear AMS, Moog Inc., Sealed Air Corporation and Stratasys have all participated in the early-stage production environment.

At the same time, this new move highlights the challenges faced by major players in the 3D printing world – who have collectively been stepping up their efforts to carve out a niche location in the growing industrial market. As industrial partners are representing a growing portion of 3D printing revenue, it makes sense to shift attention away from the stagnant consumer market. But industrial designs require a bit more 3D printing power and efficiency than a handful of nifty Etsy designs, and a complete integration of business IT systems is absolutely necessary.

HP Inc. HPQ is already joining the SAP/UPS partnership for that very purpose. “The successful transition of 3D printing from prototyping to manufacturing requires integration with business IT systems. HP understands the importance of end-to-end integration to maximize efficiency and technology adoption and is joining the SAP co-innovation program to help bring this to life,” said Scott Schiller, vice president, 3D market development, HP. “Powered by HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, HP delivers a manufacturing-ready solution for end-part production as well as an open software platform to connect to business IT systems. With leadership from SAP and collaboration with other innovators in the industry, 3D printing will more quickly move into mainstream manufacturing and streamline supply chains.”

SVP Hans Thalbauer is absolutely convinced that this new website move will support their efforts. “SAP Distributed Manufacturing can enable unprecedented opportunities to revolutionize design, manufacturing, logistics processes and business models,” Thalbauer said. “We are bringing together the innovative power of our customers and partners with SAP in this exciting next phase of our initiative to extend our reach and enable our vision for digital manufacturing.” Registration for the Early Adopters Program will be open until January 2017.

At the same time, UPS’s existing 3D printing network, run by Fast Radius, is growing. They already announced plans for opening an On-Demand 3D Printing Services factory in UPS’s Singapore facility by the end of the year to cover growing demand from Asian partners. “At UPS, we are embracing disruptive technologies and integrating them into our global logistics network,” Ross McCullough, president of UPS Asia Pacific region, said. “We believe that much like ecommerce digitized and transformed retail, 3D printing will have a similar impact on manufacturing.” This makes them the first logistics provider to establish a 3D printing foothold in the Asian market. UPS is quickly becoming an integral part of the (industrial) 3D printing market.



Posted in 3D Printing Service



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