3D printing

When first introduced, 3D printers primarily relied upon plastic filaments, but have since expanded to incorporate numerous other materials including wood, rubber, glass, metal, and even living cells for bioprinting. 3D printing has revolutionised the field and practice of rapid prototyping by allowing prototypes to be built and iterated on without the need for expensive re-tooling and custom fabrication. Consumer printers are smaller in scale and often do not offer the resolution, speed, or variety of materials of industrial versions.


  • Produces products using an additive process which involves combining printed layers together
  • Can handle a variety of materials, and can even combine multiple materials in one product
  • Enables ability to manufacture custom and difficult to create objects that cannot be created using traditional manufacturing methods
  • Ability to print complete systems with embedded sensors and electronics
  • Saves significant labor and assembly line costs through streamlining product lines in a single machine

3D printing in practice

PwC worked with a global lighting company to investigate a 3D printing spare part business opportunity. The company has a portfolio of more than 46,000 stock keeping units to keep its manufacturing site operational. As the long term volume on the machines is reduced, the company needed ideas to help them manage these obsolete costs properly.

PwC assessed the long term potential of 3D printing, identifying that 9% of the total spare part portfolio could benefit from 3D printing, which represented 18% of inventory value. For selected parts, PwC was able to reduce yearly OPEX costs by 30% as a result of 3D printing. 

PwC worked with a maritime shipping provider to calculate the business case of 3D printing in the overall spare part supply chain. The client manages 46 ships across the globe, with a total spare part portfolio of 1.5 million stock keeping units. Due to supply chain complexity, 20% of the total spare part supply chain cost is a purely logistic cost. More than 60% of the spare parts had a lead-time of more than 6 weeks.

PwC built a supply chain cost model with different implementation scenarios for 3D printing and mapped the current spare part portfolio along a maturity model for current 3D printing technology.

Contact us

Dick Fong

Partner, PwC Hong Kong

Tel: +[852] 2289 1986

Chun Yin Cheung

Partner, PwC China

Tel: +[86] (21) 2323 3927

Akihiko Katayama

Director, PwC Hong Kong

Tel: +[852] 2289 6490

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