German software giant SAP SE said today it has launched a three-dimensional printing service connecting such disparate companies as UPS Inc., HP Inc., and Jabil Circuit Inc. with SAP's digital manufacturing and engineering teams, a move SAP said could help users streamline their supply chains.
The "Distributed Manufacturing" service will combine SAP's manufacturing supply chain and internet of things (IoT) offerings with UPS' transportation and logistics network, allowing users to accelerate their operations by quickly printing specialized or personalized items and express shipping them to customers, SAP said.
By making 3-D printing a seamless part of digital manufacturing, customers can optimize design and better integrate order creation and procurement tasks, SAP said.
The Distributed Manufacturing network will also steer more business to 3-D printing service providers such as UPS, which first teamed with SAP in 2016 for a joint initiative to launch a nationwide network of printers for customers that want to create rapid prototypes or replacement parts for on-demand delivery. The service is available at more than 60 locations of the Atlanta-based logistics provider's The UPS Store retail storefronts, and at a 3-D printing factory at UPS' Louisville, Ky., Worldport facility.
The new service expands that concept by creating an online pOréal that allows users to choose from more than a dozen 3-D printing service providers. Customers log on to the cloud-based platform, upload their drawing, and select a printing vendor. The platform will enable companies to gain access to 3-D printing at a fraction of the $300,000 price tag of buying a top-shelf printer, Mike Lackey, SAP's global vice president of solution management, LoB manufacturing, said in an interview.
Companies could leverage the network to reduce expensive short production and prototype manufacturing runs, and reduce inventory costs by printing spare parts rather than storing and picking products. This is especially true for seldom-used replacement parts, which needlessly take up warehouse space, he said.
"3-D printing is going to change logistics," Lackey said. "You won't be shipping finished product around the world. You'll be printing it closer to your customer, and making it personalized as well."
The move is SAP's latest investment in 3-D printing technology. In 2016, it announced the formation of a global network of 3-D printing labs, teaming with service provider Stratasys Ltd. to help customers experiment with ways to make the technology a part of their design and prototyping processes.