Who needs the Paris Climate Accords when you have 3D printing?

Al Gore’s new “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” has him haranguing leaders who resist the Paris climate accords. Without stringent controls, he says, corporate greed will spew out carbon emissions and destroy the ecosystem. The only path to a sustainable world, he insists, lies in stepped-up government action.

That’s questionable on its face, partly because many companies have pledged to reduce emissions regardless of regulation. But the more important story is that new digital manufacturing technologies are going to substantially reduce pollution as a matter of course, whether companies wish it or not.

At the center of these technologies is 3D printing, which uses digital files to drive smaller, more flexible production lines than are economical with conventional manufacturing. 3D printing is still developing and is only now spreading to mass production. But in the next five to 10 years it should account for a sizable share of industry. As it matures, it will improve companies’ environmental performance in multiple ways.

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