Progress in 3D printing technology will see one-quarter of world trade wiped out by 2060, with carmakers among the most affected, according to estimates in a report by ING. The report describes the technology as still in its infancy but said that once high-speed mass production becomes economically viable, 3D printing would lead to “less trade growth because 3D printers use far less labour, reducing the need to import intermediate and final goods from low wage countries”. At current growth rates, half of all manufactured goods will be printed in 40 years, according to the report’s more conservative estimate. If investment in the technology was doubled every five years, that impact could be seen as early as 2040.
“Automotive, industrial machinery and consumer products are the industries that, as a result of 3D printing, will take the lead in suppressing cross border trade,” the report said. “These industries are top investors in 3D printers and are large players in world trade.” As the US need to import will decline, its trade deficit with countries like Germany, Mexico and China will also ease.