Panalpina and US-based 3D printing company, Shapeways, have entered into a strategic partnership which will enable both companies to expand their digital manufacturing capabilities globally. Panalpina sees digital manufacturing and 3D printing specifically as a perfect complement to its Logistics Manufacturing Services (LMS) offering, giving customers the possibility to customise products and bring production closer to consumer demand.
With the strategic partnership, Panalpina will benefit from Shapeways’ advanced software solutions and in-depth know-how of 3D printing materials, equipment and processes. In return, Panalpina with its global footprint and facilities in major markets can offer Shapeways geographical expansion possibilities and support in logistics, manufacturing, distribution and other value-added services.
“3D printing is one of the most exciting frontiers of digital transformation,” says Mike Wilson, Panalpina’s global head of Logistics. “It stands for the convergence of the real with the virtual world – and it has the potential to dramatically change the traditional manufacturing and logistics industries.”
Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen concurs: “As manufacturing moves from analog to digital, everything we know about product creation will change. Our community the world over is leveraging access to digital manufacturing from our platform to bring thousands of new products to life every day.”
While the technology for 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been around for decades, its recent surge in popularity makes perfect sense in the context of current major manufacturing trends, Panalpina noted. On the one hand, shorter product life cycles, the rise in digital purchasing and the higher speed to get products to market, means that production is moving away from centralised manufacturing to a more distributed model.
On the other hand, customers are demanding more customised and personalised products and have the ability to influence the product design. “3D printing is ideal for bringing production closer to the end user and aiding in mass personalisation,” explains Wilson.
Shapeways, established in 2007, is the world’s leading platform powered by digital manufacturing. Shapeways community members make products ranging from puzzles, miniature trains and smartphone cases, to drone accessories and jewelry. Shapeways enables its members to make, customise and even sell the products they design. The products are manufactured using high-end 3D printers in 56 different materials.
“Panalpina is ideally suited to assist with the final steps in the manufacturing process including last-mile delivery. In addition, they are investing in their own 3D printing research and capabilities. This demonstrates how committed and serious Panalpina is about the technology, making them an ideal partner for us,” says Weijmarshausen.
Panalpina recently launched two joint research projects with Cardiff University (UK), where the company aims to identify the products that could be switched from traditional to new, additive manufacturing techniques and also the impact these techniques will have on future supply chains. In October of last year, Panalpina invested in its first 3D printer to get an understanding of how the technology works as a complement to its Logistics Manufacturing Services (LMS) offering. Having gone through this learning curve the company is now positioned to take the business further.
Wilson sees additional advantages of 3D printing besides the fact that products make it to market faster and can be personalised or customised at the latest possible stage: “Because the value for the customer is added at the end of the supply chain, the brand owner can keep inventories, as well as the cost of transportation and obsolescence, to a minimum. Moreover, additive manufacturing produces less waste than traditional manufacturing methods, which fits perfectly with increasingly circular economies.”