From Smiling to Smirking? 3D Printing, Upgrading and the Restructuring of Global Value Chains

Märtha Rehnberg, Stefano Ponte

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    3D printing (3DP) has been heralded as a revolutionary technology that can alter the way production is organized across time and space – with important redistributive effects on geography and size of production activities. In this article, we examine the impacts that a widespread adoption of 3DP could have on restructur-ing, upgrading and distributing value added along manufacturing global value chains (GVC) – with brief examples from the aerospace and automotive industries. We highlight two possible scenarios for GVCs – a complementarity scenario of 3DP and traditional manufacturing overlapping, which would reproduce power relations in GVCs and the current distribution of value added in a ‘smiling curve’; and a substitution scenario of 3DP partly or fully superseding traditional manufacturing, which would have more transformational effects in terms of ‘rebundling’ activities, regionalizing or localizing GVCs, and flattening the smiling curve into a ‘smirk’.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGlobal Networks: A Journal of Transnational Affairs
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)57-80
    Number of pages24
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Published online: 20. June 2017


    • 3D printing
    • Global value chains
    • Manufacturing
    • Restructuring
    • Smiling curve
    • Upgrading
    • Value addition

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