Caroline Freund, Alen Mulabdic, Michele Ruta, 28 October 2019

The conventional wisdom is that 3D printing will shorten supply chains and reduce world trade. This column examines the trade effects of the shift to 3D printing in the production of hearing aids. It shows that adopting the new technology in production increased trade by roughly 60% as production costs came down. An analysis of 35 other products that are increasingly produced using 3D printing also finds positive effects but suggests that product characteristics such as bulkiness can affect the relationship between 3D printing and trade. 

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