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Handbook of Manufacturing Industries in the World Economy

Handbook of Manufacturing Industries in the World Economy

Research Handbooks in Business and Management series

Edited by John R. Bryson, Jennifer Clark and Vida Vanchan

This interdisciplinary volume provides a critical and multi-disciplinary review of current manufacturing processes, practices, and policies, and broadens our understanding of production and innovation in the world economy. Chapters highlight how firms and industries modify existing processes to produce for established and emerging markets through dynamic and design-driven strategies. This approach allows readers to view transformations in production systems and processes across sectors, technologies and industries. Contributors include scholars ranging from engineering to policy to economic geography. The evidence demonstrates that manufacturing continues to matter in the world economy.

Chapter 7: Tool-less manufacture: digital fabrication, 3D printing and the third industrial revolution

Michael Ward

Subjects: business and management, strategic management, geography, economic geography, urban and regional studies, regional studies


The current era is one of great technological and scientific developments in which new products appear to be released on an almost daily basis. Nevertheless, nearly all new product development occurs through a process of gentle refinement and evolution rather than via major disruptive technological innovations. Major manufacturing and technological developments, or technology disruptors, occur much less frequently. Over the last two hundred years of industrial development it is perhaps possible to identify just a handful of key technology disruptors: the development of an efficient steam engine to deliver almost limitless power, the construction of mass transportation systems to effectively deliver goods and raw materials, and the invention of the transistor that has so transformed communications, enabling the distribution of ‘soft’ content-based goods. However, it is not these technological innovations alone that have led to the explosion of the availability of cheaper and ever better quality products. Rather it is the coupling of these technical innovations with a market need and an efficient manufacturing methodology or process. It was Henry Ford’s approach to mass manufacture, not the invention of the car, that so transformed car manufacture from a cottage industry into a global business (Chandler, 1964; Bryson and Henry, 2001).

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