Graduation assignments Production and Logistics

2016-06 BSc assignment: Impact of 3D printing on after-sales service supply chains at the Royal Netherlands Defense

BSc graduation assignment Industrial Engineering & Management / internship Mechanical Engineering

Impact of 3D printing on after-sales service supply chains at the Royal Netherlands Defense

Preferred period: first semester, academic year 2016-2017.

Location: Soesterberg. There are possibilities to support your stay at Soesterberg, such as staying overnight at the base, or using the Army transportation service between Amersfoort Central Station and Soesterberg. This needs to be arranged in consultation with the Royal Netherlands Defense.


Additive manufacturing, also popularly known as 3D printing is thought to be useful for the manufacturing of single products (or very small quantities), customer-specific, on demand and on location. We encounter such products often in after-sales service supply chains, i.e., the supply chains of spare parts needed for maintenance & servicing of advanced capital goods like military equipment. Defense faces the issue how to maximize the technological readiness / availability of their equipment during their missions (e.g. Afghanistan, Mali), which is complicated by the impact of local circumstances on the failure behavior of systems. Defense is considering various new technologies that may help in optimizing the technological readiness during missions, the use of drones is one of them, while 3D printing of spare parts is another one.

The technology of 3D printing offers possibilities for a drastic performance increase in the medium to long term. From a logistical point of view, think of effects such as:

  • Fast 3D printing of the capital goods on demand and on site means that spare inventories of parts that can be printed are not necessary anymore: The customer order decoupling point moves upstream in the supply chain (from make-and-distribute-to-stock to make-to-order).
  • More complex 3D printing may require more time and specific equipment and expertise (e.g. metal parts), so printing on location and on demand is not feasible. Still, 3D printing may lead to a significant decrease in the replenishment lead time, so that far less safety inventory is needed (for specific spare parts in defense industry, lead times of half a year or more are no exception).
  • 3D printing of replacement parts can be used as a temporary solution to bridge the lead time until the original part is available. This may be a good option to keep military systems up and running during missions

Defense is one of the participants in the SINTAS project, where we examine the possibilities of 3D printing of spare parts, the impact on failure behavior and maintainability, and the redesign and planning of spare part supply chains when 3D printing can be used at a large scale (say, 5-10 years from now)

As a first step in the project, BSc students have made a quick scan to find out which parts could be suitable for 3D printing (using technological, economic and logistical criteria) and what type of logistical effect is most likely (see for example the three options above). This quick scan is based on a framework constructed by a PhD student. At the Royal Netherlands Army, this quick scan has been conducted using data at the central maintenance site in the Netherlands. As it is thought now that 3D printing could have more impact during missions, there is a need to update this quick scan with mission data. Besides, we would like to have an analysis of the current process for designing a temporary supply chain for a mission as basis for the redesign when 3D printing is being used.

The assignment

The assignment will roughly consist of the following steps:

  1. Use the framework of the PhD student to create an overview of the spare parts that could be printed now or in the medium term, with the logistical consequences that may arise. This requires interviews with experts in the defense organization, and analysis of spare part data and usage data from a mission to be chosen.
  2. Make an analysis of the current way in which temporary supply chains are being designed.
  3. Clarify on which aspects the supply chain design for missions will be affected if 3D printing of spare parts would be used.

The BSc report needs to be written in English because of the international researchers involved in this project.

Contact persons

For more information, please contact:

Logo Universiteit Twente

IE&M: Matthieu van der Heijden, IEBIS, RA-3357,, 053-4892852
ME: Tiedo Tinga, CTW-TM,, 053-4896152
Rob Basten, IE&IS-OPAC,