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Amazon’s 3D printing vans could slash delivery times

Amazon has filed several patent applications detailing a system whereby vans equipped with 3D printers would provide goods to customers.

The retail giant outlined the quirky truck-based scheme that would see vastly reduced shipping times by actually creating the products during delivery (via WSJ).

The fleet of vans would all carry the printers as cargo, which would then begin working as soon as a customer placed an order.

This means that the vans could dispatch as soon as a customer places his or her order, ensuring the fastest possible delivery time.

“Time delays between receiving an order and shipping the item to the customer may reduce customer satisfaction and affect revenues generated,” explained Amazon, writing in the applications.

Interestingly, this system would also reduce pressure on the Amazon
warehouses, as the company wouldn’t actually need to stock 3D-printable
items to ship them.

“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.”

3D printers work by squeezing out heated materials in layers that then solidify, a process known as additive manufacturing.

This means 3D printers can create incredibly complex designs that would be difficult or otherwise impossible with conventional manufacturing processes.

This has led to a surge in interest for the technology commercially, as highlighted by Amazon’s newfound interest.

Unfortunately there’s no telling whether the patents will actually be granted, or even whether Amazon will go ahead with the concept.

Related: Amazon Fire TV review

3D printing Amazon orders isn’t the company’s only oddball scheme to cut shipping times, however.

The company has recently trialled bike-borne couriers in Manhattan that promise one- or two-hour deliveries.

What’s more, the firm is also working on a program called Prime Air that – hopefully – will see drones delivering us packages from the skies.

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