3D Printing and Global Value Chains: How a new technology may restructure global production

From the birth of industrialization, access to new technology has been a decisive factor in how value added is created and distributed across networks of global production. This article provides a balanced assessment of the potential impact that one of these technologies (3D printing, or 3DP) may have on the structure of Global Value Chains (GVCs). It examines the upgrading opportunities that 3DP provides, and develops two scenarios of the possible impact of 3DP on GVC restructuring: a complementarity scenario, where 3DP is applied to shorten the development cycles of products that are mass-produced using traditional technology and organization; and a substitution scenario, where 3DP partially replaces traditional manufacturing. These two are likely to co-exist for a period of time, but each has distinctive implications in terms of distribution of value added along GVCs and geographically.

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