Thursday, February 27th, 2014

3D Printing: For or Against Globalization

Guest blog entry by Sylvia Gunawan, Technical Communicator at CSOFT

Some people may call 3D Printing technology a “gimmick,” but it might just be the next big thing. Take Burritobot for example, which is a 3D printer that can whip up an edible burrito in just a few minutes. If this technology continues to develop at its current rate, there will come a day in the not-so-distant future where we will be able to “print” just about anything we want. Originally developed to produce prototypes, 3D Printing builds up actual objects using a computer-aided design and minimal human assistance.  This could allow manufacturers to bring production closer to the end user at a lower cost, thus, shrinking the supply chain.

So here is the big question that could change the future of manufacturing: is this the end of globalization?

An article posted on the CNN website last month raises this question, while pointing out that growth in global trade has dropped significantly in the last two years. And with the rise of 3D Printing, taking back manufacturing from countries such as China, Vietnam and Indonesia—which is slowly running out of cheap labor—might not be too hard to accomplish after all. Ella Copeland, author of 3D Printing: The end of the globalized supply chain, wrote that 3D Printing is expected to cause a decline in the cargo industry, reducing the demand for long-distance transportation such as air, sea and rail freight industries.

Although 3D Printing poses a number of challenges to the logistics industry and other related companies, it also promises exciting localization opportunities by enabling manufacturers to be more agile and efficient. Moreover, it can also accelerate the pace of R&D and the global technology development. An increase in R&D and manufacturing capacity is always in sync with the growth requirement for globalization as more businesses are able to produce goods which need localized content for consumers on a worldwide scale. The fundamental point is that increased manufacturing efficiency—regardless where it takes place—bodes well for globalization.

Globalization is not only here to stay but will continue to grow in the years ahead, thanks to the internet which makes the world a much more connected place. One can argue that the internet has not only accelerated global trade, but has also given rise to what is called hyper-localization, a term coined back in 1991. In an article titled “Does the Web Mean the End of Globalization,” blogger Louisa Leontiades says that people are now keener than ever on being local. This gives us hope that what we do—localization—will continue to make an impact in years to come.

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One Response

February 27, 2014

I’m not convinced that 3D printing will bring the end to globalisation any time soon. I don’t believe that my computer or my car could be printed using 3D printing. And there are a number of other considerations. Is it cheaper to do 3D printing than standard manufacturing? How does the quality compare?