The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Germany Looks to Leapfrog US in 3D Printing

No matter how you look at it, 3D printing is a game-changer. The U.S. currently leads, putting millions of dollars into developing the technology, but Germany now has its sights set on becoming number one. Der Spiegel reports:

Along with US giants 3-D Systems and Stratasys, about 10 German companies provide [3D printing], some of them market leaders in their respective segments, for example Eos and Concept Laser, both in the southern state of Bavaria.

Eos is now the global market leader in its field. The company’s sales have doubled over the last three years. . . . At the moment the total sales volume of this market remains fairly modest . . . but if the trend continues, it will multiply rapidly.

German 3-D printing specialists are growing at a rate that has some industry experts hoping this nascent digital industrial age will finally see the emergence of new innovation drivers “made in Germany.” German companies are seen as leaders.

It’s not hard to see why this technology seems like a good fit for Germany. Its manufacturing faces an extremely competitive environment that rewards efforts to improve production methods. German precision engineering techniques would blend very well with 3D printing technology for creating high quality products, and high German labor costs give companies incentives to move to innovative production methods.

And unlike, say, GMOs or nuclear power, Germany’s powerful greens shouldn’t have a problem with 3D printing. Its use of additive manufacturing, which we’ve noted before, reduces the amount of input (in both materials and energy) needed to create a product—something greens should applaud.

The U.S. retains its lead in this technology so far, and the Obama administration, commendably, is backing it. But no matter which countries are in the lead, 3D printing looks increasingly likely to drive big changes in the global economy in the decades to come.

Published on January 8, 2013 12:00 pm