Amazon's drone delivery program may be grounded, but who needs a drone to drop off an item when you could have it produced curbside of your home?
That's what the e-tailer's latest ambition entails, as last week Amazon filed several patent applications for an on-demand 3D printing service in mobile manufacturing hubs, including delivery trucks. Like drones, the endeavor is another push from the company to get products to the customer faster and save on warehousing costs.
In the long-term, 3D printers would allow drivers to produce products from right outside customers' homes in the same trucks already used to deliver other products.
Such an implementation could effect the industrial distribution directly in the appliance repair services industry. Obviously, the technology would still need much refining, needing further development to reduce production time, and expand what products it can print. But hypothetically down the road, a technician could pull up to a house, identify a faulty part, print it or the materials needed for the part, and have it ready for installation shortly after. The bigger application is that mobile 3D printing would allow repair services to cut down on stocking parts, or waiting for parts to ship from a warehouse, or risking delays.
That's the goal for Amazon.
"Time delays between receiving an order and shipping the item to the customer may reduce customer satisfaction and affect revenues generated,” Amazon wrote in the patent applications. “Accordingly, an electronic marketplace may find it desirable to decrease the amount of warehouse or inventory storage space needed, to reduce the amount of time consumed between receiving an order and delivering the item to the customer, or both.”
The Wall Street Journal suggested customers could use the service to order replacement car parts and have them delivered in time to have them installed that day.
If 3D printing keeps developing at the pace it has been, it could mean the days of items being 'out of stock' will soon be over.
What do you think? Could 3D printing realistically have a direct impact in industrial distribution, or is it doomed to fail? Let us know by leaving a comment below.