This paper assesses possible futures concerning so-called 3D printing in relation
to socio-technical systems and consumption and production. Drawing on an Economic
and Social Research Council funded project, the paper details the results of research exploring
possible futures of the manufacturing industry and impacts upon the transport of objects.
Such ‘printing’, or ‘personal fabrication’, could permit many objects to be produced near to
or even by consumers themselves on just-in-time ‘printing’ machines. Widely known about in
engineering and design, the impacts of these technologies on social practices and transport
have yet to be much examined by social science. These technologies may become as ubiquitous
as networked computers, with consequences just as significant. The paper reports on
this recent research that seeks to understand some economic, social and environmental
implications of what may be a major new socio-technical system currently in the making
and which might have major consequences for the trajectory of the twenty-first century.