Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) in the UK and Germany: spatial dynamics and policy initiatives

Authors: Jennifer Johns*, University of Bristol
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: 3D printing, GPN, manufacturing, policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is currently much popular hype around the ‘new industrial revolution’ and the revival of manufacturing in the context of Industrie 4.0. The suggested shift towards digitised economies is starting to receive greater attention from across the social sciences. 3D printing is one type of technological innovation often cited as part of Industrie 4.0 and strategies around productivity. Its increasing adoption by firms as a manufacturing technique has the potential to transform global value chains and development strategies at the national and regional scale. However, the present and future impact of 3D printing on manufacturing and global production networks is currently not understood (Laplume et al. 2016). Rehnberg and Ponte (2016) and Gress & Kalafasky (2015) have initiated dialogue on 3D printing and GPNs but there are still very few empirical studies that seek to answer the numerous questions posed by the introduction of this technology. There is much that we do not know about the current or potential impact of additive manufacturing.

This paper offers a critical perspective on 3D printing to counter some of the hype around its impacts and contribution to ‘Industrie 4.0’. Based on in-depth qualitative interviews with 3D printing firms in the UK and Germany, the paper examines the uneven geographies of additive manufacturing adoption and the role of additive manufacturing in the changing geographies of manufacturing. Comparison will be made between the UK and German policy making at regional and national scales to support additive manufacturing and the subsequent impact on manufacturing in general.

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