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3D printing severely affects Dutch logistics

‘3D printing severely affects Dutch logistics’

3D printing has huge negative consequences for Dutch logistics. Ports, wholesale industries and the transport & logistics industry suffer a severe impact.






Right now the Dutch 3D-printing market is worth around 100 million euro; an amount expected to rise considerably. By 2060, maybe even 2040, half of all products will be made by 3D printers, with worldwide trading volumes dropping by twenty-five per cent as a result. The decrease in global trade will severely affect the Dutch Transport and Logistics industry, according to a disquieting prediction made by ING Bank.

Imports and exports to drop considerably

According to Raoul Leering, head of International Trade Research at the ING Economic Bureau, the decline in global trade growth will have an adverse effect on the Netherlands, especially in sectors like seaports, international wholesale trading and the transport and logistics industry. “These industries are strongly dependent on global trade, not only because of the many import and export movements to and through the Netherlands, but also on account of the Netherlands transit function. Transports of (re)exports for instance account for 31 billion euro in sales in this industry alone. Logistic service providers who store and distribute from the Netherlands all over Europe are bound to feel this blow.”

3D printing withholds foreign customers

On the other hand, the arrival of 3D printing should create an incentive for Dutch companies to adapt their production processes and find new customers. “The number of foreign customers will drop with countries becoming increasingly self-supporting, cutting their imports as a result. But as the Netherlands will also be cutting on its imports, there will be an increasing possibility of finding new customers in the home market.

Growth figures

It is a fact that 3D printing is massively gaining in popularity. By 2018 the global 3D-printing market will have a value between 10 and 14 billion euro. This is the view held by several international research agencies like Gartner, PwC, Canalys, IDC and Wohlers). DHL names 3D printing as one of the main disruptive technologies to affect the logistics and supply chain.

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3D printing: opportunities for logistics

It remains to be seen if Leering’s disquieting vision will turn out reality. Erik van Wunnik, global business development director at DSV in fact discerns opportunities for logistics. The technology namely offers huge possibilities, especially for customising of products, for which customers are prepared to pay more. This will therefore offer big opportunities for logistic service providers. Plane builder Airbus has announced its intention to buy five hundred printers over the next five years for servicing its planes with critical components and parts.

Increasing volumes

If these printers are installed indeed, this would require a supply of large quantities of rough materials like powders and liquids, in turn demanding logistic operations totally different from the current handling of rough materials. Providers of logistic services should therefore try to come up with ways of meeting this demand. Materials would no longer need to be transported to production locations exclusively, but maybe to airports and people’s homes as well. And what to do with unused goods and goods for recycling? These are volumes that are expected to increase. Where it is now ‘pallet in/pallet out’, with 3D it will be ‘pallets in/parcels out’.

Server park for 3D printing

Logistic service providers who think in opportunities can also consider investment in 3D-printing server parks, says Van Wunnik. American parcel giant UPS does just that, intending to deploy 3D printers in Asia and Europe.

Logistic service provider Broekman Logistics also discerns opportunities. Raymond Riemen, CEO at Broekman Logistics: ”We appreciate the value of 3D printing for several of our customers whose loads we are currently storing and conveying. In addition to the physical warehouses we possess, our participation in the consortium may be the first step in organising a digital warehouse for the benefit of these customers.” The Port of Rotterdam is also studying the various possibilities.


This is a translation from the original article in Dutch, written by Peter de Weerd, –

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