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Will 3D Printers Change the World?

Three-dimensional printing will spur further productivity growth, especially in those industries that turn out many replications of the same part for assembly into complete products.

For a sci-fi addict like me, 3-D printing reminds me of my favorite TV show, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It is not yet, and probably never will be, a replicator; and I expect that the price of small 3-D printers that are widely useable will keep them out of most people’s homes for the foreseeable future. But having large-scale 3-D printing revolutionize manufacturing may be soon upon us; and this prospect may well have important economic effects.

How will the rise of 3-D printing in manufacturing affect the American economy and how will we fare as consumers and workers? Productivity in manufacturing has grown more rapidly than in other sectors of the economy for many years, 117 percent since 1990 compared to 64 percent for business as a whole.

As has been true in the past, the increased productivity will lower the cost of production, which will be passed on to buyers in the form of lower prices. In the end, we as consumers will benefit from 3-D printing, not because we’ll have little printers at home, but because companies will have large printers that help lower the price of the goods we buy. We’ll be able to buy more for less.

Read more: The New York Times


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