Results of the 3DP-RDM Feasibility Study Competition

The 2016 3DP-RDM Feasibility Study Competition came to a close four weeks ago with us receiving 24 applications. Today I’m able to announce that the review panel have selected the following four projects to receive funding:

  • A feasibility study of mass customisation governance: regulation, liability, and intellectual property of re‐distributed manufacturing in 3D printing, Phoebe Li, University of Sussex
  • 3D Printing Production Planning (3DPPP): reactive manufacturing execution driving re-distributed manufacturing, Martin Baumers, University of Nottingham
  • Supporting SMEs in creating value through 3DP-RPM, Peter Dorrington, PDR, Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Driving Innovation in Redistributed Manufacturing: A Comparative Study in the British and Italian Motorsport Valleys, Paolo Aversa, City University London, and Sebastiano Massaro, University of Warwick

Our congratulations go to the successful applicants, whose projects you’ll be able to read more about soon. We regret that we couldn’t fund more projects and hope that those that we haven’t been able to support find alternative funding for their projects.

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New paper published on Fab-spaces

The Bit by Bit Team is pleased to announce that Letizia Mortara and Nicolas Parisot’s paper How do Fab-spaces enable entrepreneurship? Case studies of “Makers” – entrepreneurs has been accepted for publication in the forthcoming special issue of the International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management “3D Printing: the Next Industrial Revolution” guest edited by Irene Petrick, Thierry Rayna and Ludmila Striukova.

A pre-publication copy of the paper is available here.


Digital manufacturing technologies – once mostly only accessible to engineers and designers – have, in recent years, become more available to the general public. For non-specialists, an important opportunity to access professional manufacturing technologies is represented by fabrication spaces (fab-spaces), such as Makerspace, TechShops or FabLabs. These include various types of digital manufacturing equipment, such as 3D printers and CNC machines, as well as other types of non-digital tools.  Some fab-spaces are physical spaces, where individuals meet to conduct innovative projects. Other fab-spaces, rather than offering the direct use of machines, offer online services to  remotely support individuals in the design and manufacture of goods.

Whilst not all the users of fab-spaces are necessarily interested in developing a business on the basis of their projects, these environments and facilities could be potentially supportive of entrepreneurship. In this paper, we worked to understand ‘how’ and ‘why’ accessing fab-spaces support entrepreneurs. Through the analysis of the experience of 8 individuals, who have benefitted from fab-spaces to push forward their entrepreneurial ventures, we could conclude that fab-spaces might:

  • Lower the perception of risk and uncertainty that’s involved in the decision of creating a new venture. This is particularly true for physical fab-spaces, for prospective entrepreneurs at the beginning of their entrepreneurial activity, when they are ideating and designing their product ideas. This positive influence is due to the accessibility of technical machinery, and also the availability of competent skills offered by the other people attending these spaces, and to the moral support received. For example, one entrepreneur felt that the community at the fab-spaces was helpful and provided constructive ideas, without the need for him to ‘prove’ the worthiness of his enterprise idea. This experience was in sharp contrast with what he had experienced with the traditional Business Support Organisations, who initially had rejected him, because his business idea was too early stages and too uncertain. By frequenting fab-spaces, he could keep motivated, and develop the project enough to be finally accepted in an incubator and backed by financers.
  • Fab-spaces also provide an opportunity to entrepreneurs for fast learning. Consequently, they can quickly become skilled and be able to identify what practices work best for them. For example, the possibility of producing small batches of their products allows the entrepreneurs to distribute these to prospective users and, as a result, to better understand the market needs and the demands for their innovation, and thence to implement any required changes to their products.

However, this paper also shows how these positive effects might be moderated by the setup of fab-spaces. The accessibility of physical fab-spaces, in terms of location and cost (money and time), is very important, in particular at the start of the entrepreneurial process. It is also important to note that the cultural and institutional environment of fab-spaces could, in some cases, discourage entrepreneurs.

Download the full paper to read more.

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Reducing the Risk of Failure in New Product Development

Project delays, cost overruns, misalignment with company strategy – these are just some of the things that can go wrong with new product development and they are often directly attributable to the very earliest stages of the innovation process.

The Centre for Technology Management (CTM) at the IfM has just published a new Practice Guide: Reducing the risk of failure in new product development: getting it right at the front end of innovation. It provides insights and guidance for everyone involved in the innovation process so that they can avoid common pitfalls and improve their innovation pipelines.

Issues at the project front end – before new product development formally begins – can be the cause of some of the most common problems such as project delays, cost overruns and misalignment with company strategy.

The Guide considers two main types of innovation front end: idea-driven and opportunity driven. The former occurs when an innovative idea is generated either inside or outside the firm, and idea management systems and online communities can be valuable here. Opportunity driven front ends are initiated when new commercial opportunities are recognised; concepts considered here include ethnographic studies and ‘living labs’.

CTM Practice Guides are short practical guides on topics aimed at technology management practitioners, derived from work undertaken by CTM at the IfM.

To download the practice guide, please click here.

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Report from Joint ISO/ASTM standardisation meeting

The following report comes from Dr Eujin Pei and Dr Malte Ressin of the 3DP-RDM Data Transfer Standard feasibility study. Contact them if you’d like to learn more.

From 25 to 28 January 2016, we attended the joint ISO/ASTM standardisation meeting in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, USA. This was the third event of the International Organisation for Standardisation that we attended for the 3DP-RDM feasibility study. It was an opportunity to meet new faces and to also continue and update conversations and discussions on the future of 3DP-RDM with key experts in the area.

The main event for us was the session of ISO TC261 WG4 which is responsible for design- and data-related aspects of standardisation for Additive Manufacturing. Dr Eujin Pei, the Principal Investigator of the 3DP-RDM feasibility study, is also the Convenor of this working group. Key points of the meeting were the future inclusion of 4D printing, the development of design rules guide for 3D printing, and an updated presentation on data transfer standards for AM.

During the meeting, members of WG4 discussed the current state of adoption of the AMF standard in different software packages and the continued adoption across different industries. We also listened to the results of an ad-hoc group examining the current status of general 3DP data representation standards. This included a comparison of the existing standards AMF, STEP and STEP-NC and the concluding recommendation was to examine the data requirements of 3DP.

The session further offered an opportunity to compare the ongoing standardisation work in 3DP with the development of the STEP-NC program, which follows a similar, yet conceptually different approach of data standardisation by standardising the control codes of manufacturing machines, starting with those for subtractive manufacturing, but now slowly entering the AM area as well.

In this context, we used the opportunity to present our own ongoing research, our chosen methods and preliminary results of investigating the impact of data transfer standards in the context of 3DP-RDM. We were able to conduct a number of interesting discussions around our research project, giving us further insights into how 3DP experts see the future of 3DP in the larger landscape of manufacturing, and confirming the general interest of both academia and practice in a continued development of 3DP data transfer standards for the future. The next joint ASTM F42 and ISO TC261 meeting will take place in July 2016 in Tokyo, Japan.

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