Rapid manufacturing is more than a novel method of production; rather, it represents a paradigm shift which will impact the very nature of production and consumption. The ability to quickly manufacture limited quantities of highly individualized or geometrically optimized products locally is a revolutionary prospect which challenges the fundamental principles of economies of scale, specialization, mass production, and outsourcing which have largely defined the manufacturing industry since the industrial revolution.
Many have speculated that rapid manufacturing will enable a manufacturing renaissance in high wage economies by reducing labor and assembly costs. Others declare rapid manufacturing to be the next industrial revolution. While such claims are common, there has been no attempt to quantify the potential impact of rapid manufacturing upon the global economy. This study will evaluate rapid manufacturing as a disruptive technology, identify which products will be most likely impacted by the uptake of additive fabrication, and quantify the potential impact widespread adoption of rapid manufacturing may have upon global trade.