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The Next Production Revolution

Implications for Governments and Business

image of The Next Production Revolution

This publication examines the opportunities and challenges, for business and government, associated with technologies bringing about the “next production revolution”. These include a variety of digital technologies (e.g. the Internet of Things and advanced robotics), industrial biotechnology, 3D printing, new materials and nanotechnology. Some of these technologies are already used in production, while others will be available in the near future. All are developing rapidly. As these technologies transform the production and the distribution of goods and services, they will have far-reaching consequences for productivity, skills, income distribution, well-being and the environment. The more that governments and firms understand how production could develop in the near future, the better placed they will be to address the risks and reap the benefits.

English French

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3D printing and its environmental implications

This chapter examines the potential environmental sustainability implications of 3D printing (also called “additive manufacturing”) as it displaces other manufacturing technologies, and lists top priorities for policy interventions to improve environmental sustainability. It considers several of the most widely used 3D printing technologies as they are today and describes trends related to 3D printing’s ability to supplant other technologies in the near future as this method evolves. This analysis compares the environmental impact of today’s typical 3D printing with two classic manufacturing methods, citing life-cycle assessments, scoring greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants, material toxicity, resource depletion, and other factors. It also explores how 3D printing will expand into more industries. While this chapter mostly concerns plastic processes, other materials such as metal are also considered. While widespread 3D printing would not automatically be an environmental benefit as practised today, technologies already exist that, if brought from the industry’s fringes to its status quo, could dramatically shift manufacturing towards more sustainable production. Since the industry is at a crossroads, well-placed incentives today might establish beneficial technologies for decades to come, to make widespread 3D printing an important part of a more sustainable future.

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