Tag Archives: experience curve

Forbes: 3D Printing Will Cause Real Wages to Rise in Global Economy

3D Printing Will Reduce Manufacturing Costs

Will 3D printing be a disruptive change? Sure, but Forbes believes that we may be surprised by the result.

Contributor Tim Worstall poses an interesting counterpoint to some common conclusions about the impact of 3D printing on the global labor market.

First, Mr. Worstall suggests that there will be an experience curve for 3D printing – it will get cheaper over time to produce similar goods.

Which is, as we know, pretty much the way that manufacturing works. Things get designed, dreamt up, and they start out expensive. As we get better at doing whatever it is then prices start to drop: the clearest examples are in the computing and telecoms industries in recent years. Those examples are almost too tedious to recount in fact, they’ve been used so often.

3D printing will go through much the same process and it’s easy enough to see a time in which one has such a printer just as much as one has a paper printer. Need something, call up the part design over the web, pay a buck or two perhaps (and no doubt there will be open sourcers as well) and print out whatever it is that you wanted.

Now the key question is whether this will lead to an elimination in manual labor. As an example, we recently called the impact of 3D printing on the Indian labor market ”mind-boggling” because labor can be reduced dramatically or replaced by additive manufacturing.

Mr. Worstall asserts that this reduction in manual labor will only be replaced by service labor or production of more complex goods, and the reduction in costs will result in a rise in real wages.

But let us go to the extreme and assume that they are cheaper: so much so that manufacturing really does disappear. What does that do to wages? Yup, a fall in the costs of things is equal to, is by definition the equivalent of, a rise in real wages. So if 3D printers do take off it can only be because, by definition, they make us all richer.

Interesting view point, and one that seems to support the belief that 3D printing will be a $5 billion industry by 2020.


Via Forbes.

Factory photo by Just Add Light used under Creative Commons license.