Would a digital border tax slow down adoption of 3D printing?

  • 3D printing files are not currently subject to customs duties.
  • Imposing digital duties could slow the adoption of 3DP adoption due to higher trade friction costs.
  • VAT or sales tax may be a more practical alternative to customs duties.

Global revenues from 3D printing (3DP) have been rapidly growing by almost 30% a year over the past 30 years, but still they accounted for less than 0.1% of global manufacturing revenues in 2018, as shown in the figure below.

So far, higher unit cost and longer production times than traditionally volume-manufactured goods have led to low 3DP global adoption rates. This has been the case despite the fact that currently no customs duties are applied to 3DP files crossing borders. But what could change if such duties became the norm?

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