3D Printing and Trade

3D printing, the key enabler for additive manufacturing, is a technique that offers unique benefits over conventional manufacturing, including greater design freedom, novel geometries, decreased cost, reduced lead time, reduced waste and personalisation/customisation. These benefits enable radically new methods of production, new and better designs, lower cost, enhanced productivity and greater sustainability.

However, there will be impacts on international trade and the global value chain. The decentralized manufacturing model, enabled by 3D printing, will allow products to be manufactured closer to where they are used, thus potentially reducing imports. Raw materials and digital design files will cross borders, causing high-value cross-border digital data flows. As a result, intellectual property validation and protection will become critical to enabling smooth transfer and redistribution of digital designs, and legal issues on product ownership and origin will emerge. Traditional supply chains will be disrupted, and workforce upskilling needs will soar.

We are building a community of high-level policymakers and experts from government, private sector, and civil society to understand and prepare for the impacts of 3D printing in international trade. This project builds on and incorporates feedback from previous Forum-led conversations and leverages work underway in the trade and advanced manufacturing communities. The multi-stakeholder group will develop norms that can be applied in global and regional settings to promote the flow of digital designs and eliminate the complexity of supply chain logistics and legalities surrounding origin and ownership.

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