While it may be tempting to dismiss 3D printing as just another consumer fad, the fact is that 3D printers are already transforming how products are developed and made. It’s now fairly common for a prototype of a product to be built using a 3D printer. Many custom and spare parts are now manufactured using 3D printers, as well.
To make it simpler to treat 3D printers as an extension of the manufacturing process, SAP and UPS this week announced plans to create a global network for 3D printers that can be used to manufacture products that would then be delivered via UPS. The goal is to enable manufacturers to access this network directly via SAP manufacturing software.
At the Sapphire Now 2016 conference, Bernd Leukert, member of the executive board responsible for products and innovations, told attendees that the UPS agreement is an example of how SAP is providing a more open framework via its HANA Compute Platform (HCP). It is designed as an integration engine that makes use of HANA and the open source Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment, and Leukert says developers will be able to take advantage of a new SAP API Business Hub based on software that SAP licenses from Apigee to connect SAP applications to virtually everything and anything.
3D printing is not likely to replace traditional high-volume manufacturing soon. But it does make it possible to build products that previously would not have been economically feasible to create and deliver.
Companies may opt to build their own networks of 3D printers or tap into one managed by UPS. But for IT people involved in manufacturing, the way products are produced using digital technologies will never be the same.