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Influence of 3D printing on transport: a theory and experts judgment based conceptual model

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Consumer 3D printing is on the rise and has the potential to significantly change the transport and logistics sector. Current literature on 3D printing and transport studies does not provide a systematic model of the impact of 3D printing on transport and related (policy relevant) areas, such as traffic safety, location decisions, accessibility and environmental effects. Based on a literature review and two rounds of expert consultation, we propose and refine a conceptual model as a way to approach this gap in the literature. The expert consultation yields that the conceptual model comprises the relevant and important elements for assessing the impact of 3D printing on transport and transport-related challenges. Location, needs and transport resistance are important: (a) city-level hubs are the most likely locations for 3D printers because they can coordinate material flows and gather expertise; (b) mass-individualisation and personification dictates the needs for 3D printers; (c) distribution networks will be organised more efficiently, less empty vehicles, but raw materials still need shipping. However, experts’ opinions diverged on the impact of 3D printing on transport volumes and environmental impacts.
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Keywords: 3D printing; customer needs; environmental impact; expert judgment; literature review; location choice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Innovation Studies, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands 2: Transport and Logistics Group, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands

Publication date: September 3, 2018

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