Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Birtchnell, T. & Urry, J. (2013). Fabricating futures and the movement of objects. Mobilities, 8 (3), 388-405.


This paper assesses possible futures concerning so-called 3D printing in relationto socio-technical systems and consumption and production. Drawing on an Economicand Social Research Council funded project, the paper details the results of research exploringpossible futures of the manufacturing industry and impacts upon the transport of objects.Such ‘printing’, or ‘personal fabrication’, could permit many objects to be produced near toor even by consumers themselves on just-in-time ‘printing’ machines. Widely known about inengineering and design, the impacts of these technologies on social practices and transporthave yet to be much examined by social science. These technologies may become as ubiquitousas networked computers, with consequences just as significant. The paper reports onthis recent research that seeks to understand some economic, social and environmentalimplications of what may be a major new socio-technical system currently in the makingand which might have major consequences for the trajectory of the twenty-first century.