In traditional manufacturing processes the cost of a complex object increases the cost of the plant and of the process itself. This makes the design and prototyping of complex objects worthwhile and available to only those who have the capital available to then create the corresponding production line.
With 3D printing a fundamental difference is that, apart from the time that the printing takes, there is no change for the printer in creating a complex object from creating a simple one. Beyond a certain fixed level, proportional to the cost of the printer itself, complexity becomes for all practical purposes free in the manufacturing process.
A direct consequence of this is that the value flows from the production process, the production line, and the capital required for its deployment, to those capable of designing, and adapting the designs to different needs and circumstances.
Since 3D printed designs can be digitally transferred, and turned into atoms where it is most needed or most convenient, this frees up the creative and valuable part of the process to be executed wherever is best suited on the planet. Wherever it is most stimulating, convenient to live, 3D designers can flock in areas of the world to churn out valuable designs, in constant communication with their clients, iterating and perfecting the products in the smallest production batches possible.
The speedup of this process is beneficial to traditional processes too, which can incorporate the best designs in high-volume productions, and accelerate the discovery of optimal solutions.
(Photo of 3d printed object credit Hal Gottfried)