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Additive manufacturing (AM) — colloquially known as three-dimensional, or 3D, printing — is an emerging technology with potential local and international security implications in the near and long terms. This Perspective — part of a series examining critical security challenges in 2040 — offers a new framework for exploring the disruptive dimensions of AM technology, helping to inform which sectors and industries might be the most affected in the future. To better understand the security implications, a RAND research team briefly reviewed the existing literature, conducted interviews with stakeholders and subject-matter experts, and convened a workshop with technology and security experts. Two overarching security threats emerged: the proliferation of weapons and economic insecurity. This Perspective explores each of these security threats and offers a series of mitigation strategies and policy recommendations to help manage and regulate the negative impacts of this technology.

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This project is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted by the Center for Global Risk and Security within International Programs of the RAND Corporation.

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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