Digital Additive Manufacturing: A Paradigm Shift in the Production Process and Its Socio-economic Impacts

Ed Forrest, Yong Cao


The most simple and sweeping proposition with respect to 3D printing is that it will change everything because it can print everything. 3D printing (also known as digital additive manufacturing) is a key driver behind the on-going paradigm shift from 20th century industrial production and economics to the 21st century post-industrial order defined by open-source collboration, intelligent, nanoscale and bio technologies. This paper examines four distinct characteristics of 3D printing that define and predict its revolutionary ramifications on manufacturing processes and the geo-economic contours of global trade. Digital additive manufacturing renders the established manufacturing process obsolete. 3D printing’s rapid diffusion is a consequence of its vast assortment of applications being freely available on open crowd-sourced websites. When one combines the ability and convenience of producing one’s own customized goods with the savings accrued through the elimination of labor, re-tooling, assembly, shipping and inventory carrying costs, the consequences are most ominous for any and all engaged in traditional manufacturing and dependent on the relative cost-efficiencies of out-sourcing. 3D printing not only renders factories obsolete but threatens whole country’s economies as production is taken up by the consumer and distribution is de-globalized.

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Engineering Management Research   ISSN 1927-7318 (Print)   ISSN 1927-7326 (Online)


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