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3D Printing: Localized Production in a Globalized World

3D printing is the way goods will be produced in the world of information technology. The goods would be produced in great quantities, yet they need not be mass produced; each item produced could be customized by simply tweaking software to suit the needs and specifications of a specific customer. And the goods could be produced locally, eliminating the need of manufacturing in a centralized plant with economies of scale. Such localized manufacturing will eliminate the need of transporting manufactured goods from far of places like China or Taiwan, saving the enormous cost in fuel, time, labor and means of transport.

Once the 3D printing takes off, it will turn the global trade on its head. The United States has been sending manufacturing jobs overseas for many years, but the USA is leading the world in developing 3D technology, and with this technology maturing, the manufacturing jobs will flow back to the United States.

The basic ingredients for 3D printing are raw materials, natural and / or synthetic, 3D printing equipment and software to produce goods. Nations that have access to raw materials will have an advantage over nations who are poor in raw materials. However, with the growth of synthetic materials, the nations lagging in natural resources and raw materials will also be able to level the playing field and compete with nations rich in mineral and raw materials.

In future, the human race will be thoroughly globalized, but manufacturing will become localized.

Shabnam Lutafali, Ph.D.

Visiting Assistant Professor Economics

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