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Why Local Motors Failed: The Local 3D Printing Factory Myth

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For close to two decades now, there has been hype about the idea of local factories. These facilities would quickly be able to make local goods, which could conform to localized tastes. At the same time, they could more quickly anticipate local demand, while also remaining cheaper because they would be closer to the consumer. They would be greener and save on CO2, have lower import taxes, exhibit greater patriotism and resiliency, benefit the national and local economy, and employ people locally.

The locally produced goods idea also fits into a broader trend, whereby consumers are increasingly concerned about the terroir or origin of their products. Consumers want more ethical choices and want to have a connection with their beer, T-shirts, and eggs. Municipal governments are increasingly proactive in sourcing investment, while desiring jobs, manufacturing, and high-tech firms in their counties, cities and states. National governments have become more worried about China’s influence, supply chain resilience, local employment, re-shoring, trade deficits, foreign products in their defense goods, trade wars, and their ability to function in a global village that may periodically not agree with their views.

One solution to all of these desires, needs and problems could be the local, digital factory: a factory in a city that can produce, repair, customize, and be used to invent goods. This would be a new local solution that can make new, unique, accessible goods available while increasing local jobs, competitiveness, and reducing the barriers to entry to manufacturing. All the while, we lower the impact on the environment by using local recycled materials, less energy and emitting lower greenhouse gasses. It seems like the answer to everyones dreams.

Yet, a few companies such as TechShop, Local Motors, and others have notably failed in this arena. Why has something that seems to be such a perfect business concept not been successful so far? PRO logo

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