The Additive Manufacturing Supply Chain 251

"The Additive Manufacturing Supply Chain" provides an overview of significant ways traditional supply chain management differs with the use of additive manufacturing. A typical supply chain in traditional manufacturing begins with the procurement of raw materials, then moves on to production and assembly, centralized storage of finished goods, and finally, distribution to the consumer. Additive manufacturing, which turns digital three-dimensional models into physical objects by building them up in layers, has the potential to combine production and assembly into fewer steps, to minimize storage needs, and to be more responsive to customer needs.

Additive manufacturing increases supply chain responsiveness and competitiveness, but it also presents unique concerns, particularly with regards to materials procurement and storage. After completing this course, users will have a better awareness of both the advantages and the challenges of the additive manufacturing supply chain.

Class Details

Class Name:
The Additive Manufacturing Supply Chain 251
Number of Lessons:

Class Outline

  • Supply Chains and Supply Chain Management
  • Additive Manufacturing in the Supply Chain
  • AM Supply Chain: Material Costs
  • AM Supply Chain: Competitiveness
  • AM Supply Chain: Responsiveness
  • Review: Supply Chain Management and Additive Manufacturing
  • Materials Shipping and Storage
  • Material Supplier Requirements
  • Review: AM Supply Chain


  • Describe supply chains and supply chain management.
  • Describe the total cost of ownership for additive manufacturing.
  • Describe how additive manufacturing affects material costs in the supply chain.
  • Describe how additive manufacturing increases supply chain competitiveness.
  • Describe how additive manufacturing increases supply chain responsiveness.
  • Understand the need for different storage conditions for different materials.
  • Describe significant requirements for additive manufacturing material supply.

Job Roles



Vocabulary Term Definition
additive manufacturing AM. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. Additive manufacturing methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.
AM Additive manufacturing. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. AM methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.
assembly The action of fitting together the component parts of a machine or other object. Assembly is simplified by and requires less labor with additive manufacturing.
decentralization The movement of departments of a large organization away from a single administrative center to other locations. Decentralization allows for elements of the supply chain to be spread out in different locations.
digital thread An integrated view of all the data and information about a part or product throughout its lifecycle. The digital thread connects information from all aspects of a product into one seamless network.
digital twin A virtual representation of a physical object, such as a part or machine. A digital twin evolves with the object throughout its lifecycle.
distributed production Manufacturing that occurs in separate locations rather than at one centralized facility. Distributed production can occur closer to the end users and thus be more responsive to their needs.
end-use Designed to be used directly by a consumer or directly in another manufactured product. End-use products created by additive manufacturing (AM) include medical implants, custom dental devices, and camera equipment.
fixtures A piece of equipment that is fixed into position. Fixtures can be efficiently produced by additive manufacturing.
gripper A mechanical device that uses rotary and linear actuators to mimic the motion of the human hand. A gripper has a complex shape that can be easily produced using additive manufacturing.
inert transfer A containment procedure powered by vacuums that prevents powders from coming into contact with oxygen. Inert transfer is used with metal powders for additive manufacturing.
lead time The time between the initiation and completion of a production process. Lead time is shortened in additive manufacturing.
lean manufacturing A methodology that focuses on minimizing waste within manufacturing systems while also maximizing productivity. Lean manufacturing exploits all opportunities to safely eliminate waste.
lifecycle The entire timeline of something. In manufacturing, lifecycle includes part design, machine setup, production, quality, and end of life.
manufacturing aids Any device, platform, tool, or fixture used to enhance, speed up, perfect, or fix a manufacturing or assembly process. Manufacturing aids can be efficiently produced by additive manufacturing.
nylon A synthetic plastic, the most common plastic material used in AM. Nylon's advantages include its durability and excellent strength-to-flexibility ratio.
prototyping Creating an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process. Early additive manufacturing was primarily used for prototyping.
regulatory compliance When a business follows state, federal, and international laws and regulations relevant to its operations. Regulatory compliance varies by industry, from aerospace to medical devices to many other fields.
resin A solid or highly viscous substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically converted into polymers. Resin's advantages include its low shrinkage rate and its high chemical resistance.
responsiveness The quality of reacting quickly and positively. Additive manufacturing can increase the responsiveness of the supply chain.
robotic arm A programmable or remote-controlled mechanical device that simulates the movement of a human arm. Robotic arms are used in a variety of assembly and manufacturing applications.
safety stock Extra materials or products that are maintained to mitigate risks of uncertain supply and demand. The need for safety stock is decreased or eliminated by additive manufacturing.
stainless steel A metal alloy used in fusion or laser sintering. Stainless steel used in additive manufacturing usually takes the form of a powder blend.
subtractive A type of manufacturing that involves a piece of material being machined down to a part. Traditional manufacturing is subtractive.
supply chain A network of companies that exchange resources such as materials and information to deliver products to customers. A supply chain consists of a company, its suppliers, its distributors, and its customers.
supply chain management The process of planning, implementing, and controlling supply chain activities to achieve maximum customer value and sustain competitive advantage. Supply chain management oversees each organization in the supply chain, from development to sourcing to production to delivery.
support structures A reinforcing component used to hold the weight of an additively manufactured part as it is being constructed. Support structures are removed from the part once the build is complete.
three-dimensional 3D. Having height, width, and depth. Three-dimensional parts are created during additive manufacturing (AM) processes.
total cost of ownership TCO. The purchase price of an asset plus the costs of operation. Total cost of ownership helps assess the value of an investment over time.
virtual Existing on or simulated within a computer program or system rather than physically existing. Virtual representations of real-world objects are known as digital twins.
waste Unused material or the byproducts of production. Waste is to be avoided in lean manufacturing.