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Costs and Cost Effectiveness of Additive Manufacturing



Douglas Thomas, Stanley W. Gilbert


The use of additive manufacturing has increased significantly in previous years. Additive manufacturing is used by multiple industry subsectors, including motor vehicles, aerospace, machinery, electronics, and medical products. Currently, however, additive manufactured products represent less than one percent of all manufactured products in the U.S. As the costs of additive manufacturing systems decrease, this technology may change the way that consumers interact with producers. Additive manufacturing technology opens up new opportunities for the economy and society. It can facilitate the customized production of strong light-weight products and it allows designs that were not possible with previous manufacturing techniques. Various challenges, however, can impede and slow the adoption of this technology. In many instances, the cost of producing a product using additive manufacturing processes exceeds that of traditional methods. This report examines the costs of additive manufacturing and seeks to identify those instances where additive manufacturing might be cost effective and also identify potential means for reducing costs when using this technology.
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 1176
Report Number


Additive manufacturing, manufacturing, 3D printing, supply chain, technology diffusion


Thomas, D. and Gilbert, S. (2014), Costs and Cost Effectiveness of Additive Manufacturing, Special Publication (NIST SP), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed July 25, 2024)


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Created December 4, 2014, Updated June 24, 2021