Amongst countless other upheavals, the Covid-19 pandemic cruelly exposed the shortcomings of the traditional supply chain – while turning a spotlight on the advantages of additive manufacturing. In this blog, we examine three different ways in which AM can keep the wheels turning for fast-moving businesses.

The state of the supply chain in 2024

While one might hope the global supply chain would have settled since Covid, in reality, the challenges of physically moving parts and products from A to B have only intensified. From high-profile global issues like the Houthi attacks on container ships passing through the Red Sea, to widespread congestion at ports and shortage of warehouse storage, it’s no surprise that PR Newswire recently reported that 80% of organisations experienced at least one major supply chain disruption (while up to half suffered three or more setbacks).

Worse, projections for the future of the old-school supply chain are downbeat, with 82% of decision-makers anticipating the situation will deteriorate. “With climate change and geopolitical tensions expected to impact food and cause disruptions,” said Dr Madhav Durbha, vice-president of supply chain innovation at Coupa Software, “now is the time for supply chain leaders to take initiative and be creative as to how they can invest and improve their operations.”

Advantages of additive manufacturing in the supply chain

One of the ways that thought leaders have “taken the initiative” can be seen in the accelerated uptake of additive manufacturing. In other blogs, we’ve discussed the wider benefits of AM, from the reduced waste to the limitless materials that means AM-created parts can be tailored to any application or environment. But in this blog, let’s look at three key areas where AM positively impacts on the supply chain.


In the era of traditional manufacturing, prototyping could be a cumbersome, time-consuming step, often involving a third-party supplier (and therefore putting your business at the mercy of their schedule). By contrast, additive manufacturing – and the state-of-the-art 3D printers from Stratasys and UltiMaker – have made the rapid prototyping process agile and efficient. It’s now possible to minutely adjust designs in real-time, print multiple iterations of the same component and test how each performs in real-world scenarios – all in-house and within the same day.


Some operations favour the ‘just in time’ approach (where shipped components are used the second they arrive, reducing the need for storage), but this puts them at the mercy of glitches in the global supply chain. The alternative is stockpiling inventory, but this comes at a price, with warehousing representing a major expense for manufacturers. AM offers a third way, letting businesses shrink or even eliminate their storage footprint without being caught short. Rather than machine parts then shelve them for months, additive manufacturing means components can be 3D printed as and when required, shielded from uncontrollable events around the world.

Specialist parts

Off-the-shelf fixtures and fittings might not be a problem to source, but when a custom component is required – typically at a moment’s notice – the entire production process can be derailed by a delay. AM sidesteps this issue, with businesses able to simply keep a selection of materials in stock and immediately print the most bespoke parts with no third party required. Better still for international businesses, a designer in London could ping a design file to a factory in Shanghai, allowing them to instantly produce the required part on their own fleet of printers – no shipping required.

The one-stop solution to unlock the advantages of additive manufacturing

The additive manufacturing concept can feel overwhelming when you’re starting out, but at 3D Print Academy, we’ve shown some of the UK’s best designers, developers and operators how to unlock the advantages. Offering next-generation facilities, trusted trainers and a complete programme of 3D printer training courses, we’re proud to be the UK’s first Authorised Stratasys Training Centre.

Introduce AM to your business with 3D printing courses from 3D Print Academy. We’re ready to assist you on 03332 075 660 or



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