• Economic implications of 3D printing: Market structure models in light of additive manufacturing revisited

      Weller, Christian; Kleer, Robin; Piller, Frank (International Journal of Production Economics, 2015)
      Additive manufacturing (AM), colloquially known as 3D printing, is currently being promoted as the spark of a new industrial revolution. The technology allows one to make customized products without incurring any cost penalties in manufacturing as neither tools nor molds are required. Moreover, AM enables the production of complex and integrated functional designs in a one-step process, thereby also potentially reducing the need for assembly work. In this article, we discuss the impact of AM technology at both firm and industry level. Our intention is to discern how market structures will be affected from an operations management perspective. Based on an analysis of established economic models, we first identify the economic and technological characteristics of AM and distill four key principles relevant to manufacturers at firm level. We then critically assess the effects of AM at industry level by analyzing the validity of earlier assumptions in the models when these four principles apply. In so doing, we derive a set of seven propositions which provide impetus for future research. In particular, we propose that in a monopoly, the adoption of AM allows a firm to increase profits by capturing consumer surplus when flexibly producing customized products. Meanwhile in competitive markets, competition is spurred as AM may lower barriers to market entry and offers the ability to serve multiple markets at once. This should ultimately result in lower prices for consumers.
    • Local manufacturing and structural shifts in competition: Market dynamics of additive manufacturing

      Kleer, Robin; Pillier, Frank T. (International Journal of Production Economics, 2019)
      Additive manufacturing (AM) allows to build components and finished series products directly from 3D data, without the need for tooling or other setup cost. An often discussed, but hardly investigated opportunity of AM is to establish economical and scalable local production facilities for innovating consumers (who turn into “prosumers”). In this paper, we investigate the effect of such a local production (enabled by AM) on consumer welfare, market structure, and competitive dynamics. Doing so, we provide a new perspective on the fundamental trade-off between the instant availability of (perfectly fitting) products manufactured by and in close proximity to a consumer and the efficiency gains of realizing economies of scale by producing standard products in a central facility. We analyze AM from the perspective of the established theories of user innovation and spatial competition. Building on two game-theoretical (Hotelling) models, we show that there is scope for the improvement of consumer welfare arising from local production by consumer producers. Our analysis allows us to make a number of propositions concerning the effects of AM on market structure when adopted by local users, and to identify the specific conditions of these shifts.
    • Predicting the future of additive manufacturing: A Delphi study on economic and societal implications of 3D printing for 2030

      Jiang, Ruth; Kleer, Robin; Piller, Frank (Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2017)
      Additive manufacturing (colloquially: 3D printing) is a highly discussed topic today. Previous research has argued that this technology will have profound effects for manufacturing businesses, but also society as such, demanding new corporate strategies and policies alike. Thus, the development of reliable future scenarios is key for strategic planning and decision making as well as for future research. Still, dedicated academic studies in this field remain scarce. We present the results of an extensive Delphi survey on the future of additive manufacturing with a focus on its economic and societal implications in this paper. Via an initial round of extensive qualitative interviews and a Delphi-based analysis of 3,510 quantitative estimations and 1,172 qualitative comments from 65 experts, we were able to develop two scenarios on the future of AM. Our first scenario is built on those Delphi projections with the highest consensus on the likelihood of occurrence, the second on the expected highest impact on the firm level. We present these scenarios in and conclude with a number of implications for industry, policy, and future research.