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The impact of 3D printing on the humanitarian supply chain

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Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing is radically changing the way products are designed and manufactured. The humanitarian sector has started exploring how 3D printing can help match supply with the global rise in humanitarian needs. However, there has been very little academic research in the field. This study aims to bridge this gap by reviewing twelve case studies of 3D printed products to examine the effects of 3D printing on the humanitarian supply chain. The findings reveal four supply chain archetypes, which demonstrate that 3D printing is impacting the humanitarian supply chain with respects to networks, governance, processes and products. We compare the benefits and challenges of these archetypes to contest that 3D printing will not necessarily simplify and shorten the supply chain. Instead, we suggest the need for a holistic supply chain approach that includes the local production of 3D printers and filament, alongside local design and manufacture. This much-needed study provides the foundations for future academic research and offers relevant guidance for practitioners using 3D printing in the humanitarian sector.



3D printing, additive manufacturing, development, humanitarian, supply chain

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Production Planning and Control

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Informa UK Limited


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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/L504920/1)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (1741851)