A recently released report calls for "thoughtful" state and federal investments to bolster 3D printing technology in local manufacturing clusters.
The analysis by the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation Foundation said 3D printing is already beginning to shorten supply chains in a number of industrial sectors and improve both cost and efficiency.
Moving forward, the study anticipates that the technology will mean rapid changes for regional economies, and that research tailored to a cluster's specific needs would produce high economic returns.
Report author Cliff Waldman, the foundation's director of economic studies, said investing in 3D printing would promote development of new manufacturing clusters and spillover between existing clusters, as well as provide an overall jolt to U.S. manufacturing entrepreneurship.
"Over time, certain goods-producing sectors will be populated by small but disruptive competitors, a plus for the growth and global responsiveness of U.S. manufacturing," Waldman said.
The report added that demand for high-skilled labor would increase dramatically and that information would increasingly factor into manufacturing supply chains.
Although Waldman wrote that a national plan for 3D printing is "at least worth considering" — since the U.S. accounts for most of the current global market — regional clusters offer numerous benefits, including “faster employment and wage growth as well as stronger patenting activity and entrepreneurship.”