As demonstrated in the healthcare accessories/earbud example, there are a range of consumer goods that can benefit companies and consumers mutually when the manufacturer or retailer takes a hyper-local and mass customization approach.
Consider an eyeglass store.
When there are no supply chain barriers, it’s likely filled with a wide range of frames in all different shapes, sizes and colors. And despite manufacturers’ best guesses on how many frames of each style will sell, there is inevitable waste when a fashion trend changes and a new collection of frames becomes available.
Because mass manufacturing of these frames is relatively inexpensive, extra frames are almost always produced, but never used. If manufactured overseas, shipping them to your local store increases the environmental toll — especially considering global emissions from international shipping are expected to reach 709 million metric tons of CO2 in 2025.1 This coupled with continual strain on the supply chain since the pandemic, there are many reasons why producing more locally makes sense.
Imagine for a moment, though, if your local eyeglass store could offer you a hyper-personalized and hyper-local frames. Using 3D printing technology, the store could manufacture your desired frame onsite instead of having to choose only from mass-produced frames.
It would be a triple win:
1) The environmental impact would be reduced.
2) You’d get a personalized frame made specifically for your face.
3) There’d be no waiting weeks for a shipment and dealing with potential supply chain issues.
Today, digital manufacturing techniques are already chipping away at the traditional process of producing eyewear. Warby Parker, for example, uses CNC milling to make their product in lower quantities but they can still use traditional materials for that superior look and feel.
In the future, additive manufacturing will have the range of material properties to bring the eyewear market truly into the on-demand production space.