Some researchers, and the Economist, have argued that the technology could launch the next industrial revolution, in which large-scale industrial processes are replaced by people fabricating their own things.
Indeed, advocates say 3D printers threaten to undermine some of the basic tenets of the international economy: namely, that multinational companies (MNCs) enjoy an advantage because of their sprawling global value chains. Operating on a worldwide scale allows these firms to exploit cheap labor pools and distribution methods, favorable import/export regulations, and rapidly advancing communications capabilities. If someone in the U.S. can 3D print a gadget in their home that used to have to be made in China and shipped overseas, analysts say it’s not hard to see how the business landscape could shift for manufacturers, middlemen, and retailers alike.
Based on a comprehensive review of the latest research, media reports, and expert analysis on 3D printing, the authors of a new study have determined which industries have the most at stake. They have also pinpointed several sector-specific factors that will likely determine how disruptive the technology will be to an industry’s global value chain.
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