New fab-spaces paper accepted for publication

The Bit by Bit team is pleased to announce that Letizia Mortara and Nicolas Parisot’s paper Through entrepreneurs’ eyes: the Fab-spaces constellation has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Production Research. The paper will be part of the forthcoming special issue “Distributed manufacturing to enhance productivity”, guest edited by Prof. Manoj Kumar Tiwari, Prof. Sir Mike Gregory and Prof. Baldev Raj.  This paper builds on the previous work presented at the first World Open Innovation Conference, Napa, CA, 4-5 December 2014.

While the paper is being formally processed and formatted by the Journal, a pre-publication version is available on ResearchGate. Here’s the abstract to give you a taste of what the paper covers.


Fab-spaces provide individuals with access to numerous manufacturing equipment (including additive manufacturing), to carry out different types of projects. Although scholars are starting to speculate about the importance of these new organizational forms and their potential for future distributed innovation and production ecologies, this phenomenon is still largely unexplored. Building on existing multidisciplinary research, this paper offers the first empirical analysis of existing fab-spaces as providers of knowledge and production competencies. Amongst all the possible perspectives to derive a framework, we choose that of fab-spaces users who have an entrepreneurial intention. After deriving an analytical framework to position fab-spaces in the current academic discourse, the paper develops a classification, which considers the competences available to entrepreneurs, via fab-spaces, in conjunction with how these competences are provided. The resulting map reveals the complementarities amongst the different fab-spaces. It also shows that the current portfolio of fab-spaces supports mainly the distribution of innovation across locations and social groups. Several types of fab-spaces are currently well placed to support the transition from innovation to manufacturing, but their geographical distribution and range of manufacturing capabilities is not yet enough to provide a fully distributed manufacturing model. This study has practical consequences for entrepreneurs, in the better identification of the appropriate fab-spaces for their needs, and for policy makers, to help position the different types of fab-spaces as elements for national systems of innovation and production.

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Now published: additive manufacturing and sustainability article

We’re pleased to announce that after two rounds of reviews, Simon Ford and Mélanie Despeisse’s paper “Additive manufacturing and sustainability: an exploratory study of the advantages and challenges” has been accepted and is in press in the Journal of Cleaner Production. The In Press version of the paper can now be accessed on ScienceDirect, while a pre-publication copy of the article is available from ResearchGate.

Here’s the abstract to give you a taste of what the paper covers.


The emergence of advanced manufacturing technologies, coupled with consumer demands for more customised products and services, are causing shifts in the scale and distribution of manufacturing. In this paper, consideration is given to the role of one such advanced manufacturing process technology: additive manufacturing. The consequences of adopting this novel production technology on industrial sustainability are not well understood and this exploratory study draws on publically available data to provide insights into the impacts of additive manufacturing on sustainability. Benefits are found to exist across the product and material life cycles through product and process redesign, improvements to material input processing, make-to-order component and product manufacturing, and closing the loop. As an immature technology, there are substantial challenges to these benefits being realised at each stage of the life cycle. This paper summarises these advantages and challenges, and discusses the implications of additive manufacturing on sustainability in terms of the sources of innovation, business models, and the configuration of value chains.

[Image source: Mélanie Despeisse]

Introducing the 3DP-RDM Feasibility Studies: A feasibility study of mass customisation governance

Following the recent feasibility study competition, the 3DP-RDM network is funding four projects in 2016. In this series of blog posts we introduce the four studies. Today we introduce the second study, “A feasibility study of mass customisation governance: regulation, liability, and intellectual property of re-distributed manufacturing in 3D printing”, which is being led by Dr Phoebe Li at the University of Sussex.

Decentralisation, localisation, and democratisation of 3D printing (3DP) technologies provide accessibility and efficiency to customised product development by enabling consumers to take part in re-distributive manufacturing (RDM). Grass-roots open innovation platforms are accelerating the uptake of 3DP and RDM by connecting and transforming consumers into active ‘prosumers’ via project crowdsourcing. Yet in so doing RDM decentralises design and manufacture and localises unprecedented risks throughout the ‘mass customisation’ production chain as well as blurring the lines in standardisation and classification in the regulatory landscape.

In the health sector, RDM disrupts social and legal norms. Stakeholders are facing an undefined, evolving regulatory landscape. The lack of a regulatory framework would delay wide acceptance of 3DP and create barriers to market. A robust regulatory roadmap would reduce unrealistic expectation and hype, provide clear signposts for R&D, secure quality and traceability, and enhance accessibility.

This study aims to map the scope and to identify the main issues arising from ‘mass customisation governance’, taking the health sector as a case study. The feasibility study will assess the impacts of existing legal regimes on RDM in 3DP. This work will define the research agenda needed for RDM in 3DP by interpreting the current and potential impact of regulation, liability, and intellectual property (IP). The research will assess how new governance models might emerge, identify new challenges for regulation, and assess implications for responsible innovation. It will investigate the viability of an embedded watermarking system into mass customisation governance of RDM, in order to secure safety, quality control, surveillance and traceability.

This comparative study will look at the issues in both China and the UK.

This feasibility study will be conducted by fieldwork and documents and regulatory policy analysis. We will conduct five interviews in China and elicit diverse views in a focus group in the UK. Selected interviews in China will provide a comparative study for assessing UK’s global competitive advantage in the field.

This study will be conducted by partners at Sussex Law School and the Centre for Global Health Policy at the University of Sussex, the Law and the Computer Science departments at the Exeter University, the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine at Loughborough University, and 3Dynamic Systems Ltd.

This project is led by Dr Phoebe Li, a Lecturer in Law at the University of Sussex in the UK. Her research interests revolve around the regulation of science and technology, intellectual property (IP), development, and international trade. She is particularly interested in exploring the convergence and divergence of risk regulation and IP in relation to emerging technologies. Her current research interests lie in the regulatory and IP implications of 3D printing and bioprinting technologies, following from an interdisciplinary project on 3D chocolate printing.  In addition to the EPSRC/Cambridge feasibility study, Dr Li is currently working on an international collaborative project on 3D printing licensing in China at the AHRC Centre for Digital Copyright and IP Research in China (funded by AHRC/Newton Fund), and on another project on medical 3D printing and patent policy in China (funded by BILETA). She has been invited to speak on the topic at national and international institutions. She is an Advisor to the 3D Bioprinting Pioneering project for the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA). For further information about this project or to engage in the feasibility study please contact her.

Dr Phoebe Li talking at a recent conference in Changsha, China.

[Images source: Phoebe Li]



Field Ready Makeathon

Field Ready, a start-up focused on solving humanitarian supply chain problems through innovative manufacturing approaches such as 3D printing, is hosting a Makeathon at the Institute for Manufacturing, Cambridge on the afternoon of 14th May.

Makeathons are events of intense brainstorming and prototyping aimed at solving a particular technical challenge. The process involves coming up with theoretical solutions, taking a few of them forwards to proof of concept prototyping and sharing findings, with the hope that one or more of these will serve as basis for future development.

The theme of this Makeathon is construction quality in Haiti; participants will be given the challenge of identifying ways of testing the quality of concrete blocks on the site of delivery to ensure safe construction.

If you would like to participate please register here. For more information contact the event organiser, Daniel Yanev.

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Introducing the 3DP-RDM Feasibility Studies: Driving Innovation in Redistributed Manufacturing

Following the recent feasibility study competition, the 3DP-RDM network is funding four projects in 2016. In this series of blog posts we introduce the four studies. Today we introduce the first study, “Driving Innovation in Redistributed Manufacturing: A Comparative Study in the British and Italian Motorsport Valleys”, which is being led by Dr Paolo Aversa at City University London, and Sebastiano Massaro at Warwick University, in collaboration with Prof. Gianni Lorenzoni at the University of Bologna.

The motorsport industry – with its peak being Formula 1 – is one of the leading sectors involved in the additive manufacturing landscape. In the UK and Italy alone, two leading players in the sector, the motorsport sector boasts an annual turnover of over £9bn thus representing a major source of value to the national economies. This sector is fundamental for European competitiveness, in particular with both the UK and Italy being key strategic players. Not only do these two countries host iconic motorsport clusters, in which several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and highly technological suppliers are located (e.g., Ferrari, Ducati, Maserati; Aston Martin, Jaguar, McLaren, Williams), but they are also at the forefront of manufacturing innovation. Since the early 1990’s, motorsport companies in these countries have pioneered additive manufacturing, which in turn has been transferred to the automotive sector (the biggest industry in Europe), and other sectors such as public transportation, healthcare, and aerospace.

Yet, the increasing affordability of such technologies has recently triggered a widespread diffusion across the entire motorsport ecosystem, both at OEM and suppliers’ levels. This, in turn, has redistributed manufacturing activities, changed behavioural strategies of firms, and introduced novel forms of business models. For one, special-shape mould production was mostly carried out by “hand crafting”—representing a complex and time-consuming activity that OEMs often outsourced to specialised suppliers. However, 3D printing has allowed OEMs to bring this activity back in house, thus pushing the specialised suppliers to rethink their core competences or to innovate their business models to make their business sustainable.

These frequent core-periphery manufacturing shifts are worth careful investigation for practical and theoretical reasons. Practically, they are actively shaping the development of one of the most vibrant industries in international manufacturing; theoretically, they offer a timely opportunity to investigate dynamics at the multidisciplinary intersection between business model innovation, behavioural strategies, and redistributed manufacturing, also generalisable to other manufacturing industries.

The purpose of this study is to investigate this manufacturing redistribution phenomenon in the British and Italian motorsport clusters. We will specifically focus on better our understanding of: (1) capabilities development at the OEM and supplier level; (2) behavioural strategies; (3) emergence of new business models.

These goals will be achieved in two phases. Following a literature review, in the first phase, we will survey motorsport firms to explore the main trends connected to the adoption of 3D printing-based manufacturing. In the second phase, we will sample OEM and suppliers in both the Italian and UK motor valleys to conduct on-site interviews, data collection, and direct observations with the companies’ executives. Finally, data will be analysed and integrated with a mixed method approach.

This research will help policy makers understand the fine-grained dynamics that are shaping one of the leading manufacturing industries in UK and Italy. We will identify best practices in 3D-based business modelling, and develop general recommendations that will support competitiveness, innovation and sustainability in other sectors. Ultimately, we will understand how to improve relational governance in manufacturing redistribution between OEMs and suppliers.

About the researchers

Dr Paolo Aversa is a Lecturer in Strategy at Cass Business School and a leading academic in the business of automotive, motorsport and Formula 1. His research globally informs policy makers, managers, and leaders through top publications, consulting, education, and international media engagement and has received several awards.

Dr Sebastiano Massaro is an Assistant Professor at Warwick Business School and Deputy Lead of the Global Research Priority in Behavioural Science at Warwick University. His research, among other areas, focuses on behavioural strategies in complex decision-making scenarios.

This project is developed in close collaboration with Prof. Gianni Lorenzoni, Emeritus Professor of Strategy and Behavioural Decision Making at the University of Bologna, Italy.

For further information about this project please contact Paolo and Sebastiano.

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