Category Archives: publication

New report: Mass customisation governance

We’re pleased to be able to share the final project report from the feasibility study led by Dr Phoebe Li at University of Sussex. “Mass customisation governance: regulation, liability, and intellectual property of re-distributed manufacturing in 3D bioprinting” describes results of their work undertaken during the 2016 round of 3DP-RDM feasibility studies. The results of this project were presented at the 3DP-RDM event 3D Printing Where and How on 31st January 2017 at the IfM in Cambridge.


Phoebe Li, Alex Faulkner, James Griffin and Nick Medcalf

The feasibility study assesses the impacts of existing legal regimes on re-distributed manufacturing (RDM) in 3D printing (3DP). It investigates the viability of an embedded watermarking system into mass customisation governance of RDM as part of the potential impact of the three most important regimes on 3DP – regulation, liability, and intellectual property (IP) – in order to secure safety, quality control, surveillance, and traceability.

Download the report

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New report: Driving Innovation in redistributed manufacturing

The final project report from the feasibility study led by Dr Paolo Aversa at Cass Business School and Dr Sebastiano Massaro at Warwick Business School is now online. “Driving Innovation in redistributed manufacturing: A feasibility study in the motorsport industry” describes results of their work undertaken during 2016. The results of this project were presented at the 3DP-RDM event 3D Printing Where and How on 31st January 2017 at the IfM in Cambridge. More information about their project can be found on their project website.

Executive summary

Paolo Aversa and Sebastiano Massaro

This feasibility study investigates the level of adoption of additive manufacturing (AM) technology in the British motorsport industry and to what extent this is being employed for competitive advantage. The themes of redistributive manufacturing and technological innovation are explored to understand how, and to what extent, the British motorsport industry has aligned itself to AM technology. AM has been described in recent media as a panacea, a solution for all manufacturing problems, disrupting conventional manufacturing techniques with its potential to create geometrically complex products in any location.

Investigating these themes involved collecting primary data through (1) a quantitative survey of manufacturing companies involved in British motorsport, and (2) a series of qualitative interviews with experts in the field.

Where the main benefits of AM revolved around the production of structurally complex parts and reduction in production lead time, findings from the survey reveal that AM does not fully satisfy production needs. In combination with the need to recruit additional skilled labour, results suggest that the benefits of employing AM do not currently outweigh the overall costs. On the behavioural side we found that those managers and executives who are more keen in adapting AM are overall higher in risk-taking.

Our interviewees perceive that AM technology will continue to proliferate through the British (and Italian) motorsport supply chain, supplanting conventional techniques for the manufacture of low-volume and complex parts. The close proximity of specialist manufacturers to race-teams in the British motorsport valley® cluster is perceived to prohibit any notable redistributive manufacturing but has demanded agility from those suppliers in response to the reduced development cycles that AM facilitates. As innovations in materials, processes and hardware continue to overcome challenges with reliability, integrity and cost of AM products, a new generation of university graduates are expected to be educated in the true value of AM, designing for use and championing the technology as a viable and crucial augmentation to existing conventional manufacturing techniques.

In summary, the benefits of AM processes are ingrained throughout the motorsport supply chain which has adapted, rather than re-configured, to accept these advanced techniques. The future of AM will be secured by innovations that remove physical limitations, giving way to an industry that will benefit from a hybridisation between conventional and AM technologies.

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New report: Supporting SMEs in creating value through 3D printing re-distributed manufacturing

The final project report from the feasibility study led by Dr Peter Dorrington at PDR, Cardiff Metropolitan University is now online. “Supporting SMEs in creating value through 3D printing re-distributed manufacturing” describes results of the work undertaken at PDR during 2016. The results of this project will be presented at the 3DP-RDM event 3D Printing Where and How on 31st January 2017 at the IfM in Cambridge.

Executive summary

Peter Dorrington

The aim of this report is to present a feasibility study which investigates the key challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to create value through 3D printing-enabled re-distributed manufacturing (3DP-RDM). The key challenges that are investigated in this study include:

  1. The lack of support tools that enable SMEs to see the impact of a 3DP-RDM
    business model;
  2. The lack of design support tools for both 3DP and RDM;
  3. Primary knowledge gaps on 3D printing processes in SMEs;
  4. The gap in understanding and developing an appropriate skills-base within an organisation.

Data was collected through interviews, workshops and surveys with SMEs operating at a range of engagement levels on the 3DP-RDM spectrum. In addition industry and academic experts in the field of 3D printing were consulted. Analysis of the data was undertaken through affinity mapping; thematic analysis; IDEF0 NPD analysis; testing of a value capturing tool; and quantitative survey analysis. The results section of this study maps out in detail the keys challenges relating to points 1 to 4 above.

Accepting the limitations of such a feasibility study, the following recommendations are made to support SMEs in creating value through 3DP-RDM:

  • Embedding 3D printing in secondary education, and tertiary education;
  • Engaging SMEs in the 3DP-RDM conversation;
  • Addressing training needs for 3DP-RDM in SMEs;
  • Furthering the research agenda for 3DP-RDM.

[Image source: PDR]

3D Printing Production Planning Report

The final project report from the feasibility study led by Dr Martin Baumers at the University of Nottingham is now online. “3D Printing Production Planning: Reactive manufacturing execution driving redistributed manufacturing” describes results of the work undertaken at the University of Nottingham in collaboration with HP Enterprise and Knight Graphics. The results of this project will be presented at the 3DP-RDM event 3D Printing Where and How on 31st January 2017 at the IfM in Cambridge.

Executive summary

Martin Baumers, Ender Özcan and Jason Atkin

3D Printing (3DP) technology, also known as Additive Manufacturing, is associated with significant potential for supply chain innovation by enabling manufacturing configurations delivering additional value through differentiated products, for example in terms of production location. It has been suggested that pursuing distributed 3DP supply chains may be the result of strategic deliberation, yet it is also frequently noted that 3DP is prone to higher unit costs than conventional manufacturing. In this report we summarise the findings of a project which establishes an understanding of the relationship between the commercial performance of 3DP and the characteristics of its operation through the development of a demonstrator system.

In most industries 3DP faces the additional challenge of integrating with conventional manufacturing technologies and processes, which are normally operated in a centralised location. Economies of scale form one of the reasons for the dominance of centralised manufacturing, allowing the amortization of substantial costs over large volumes of products for the global marketplace. Complementing such centralised manufacturing, increasingly complex supply chains have emerged. Moreover, the implementation of appropriate supply chains is now seen as a core capability for manufacturing businesses.

In this context, a closer inspection of the typical work flow of 3DP reveals a puzzle: the current process for allocating build requirements to individual (potentially re-distributed) 3DP systems relies on an array of decisions on the operator/technician level, some of which can be automated and all of which will affect the overall efficiency of the 3DP process and the business case for its application. Thus, this project focusses on designing a demonstrator to provide a solution to this puzzle and further our understanding of the implementation of 3DP supply chains. Labelled the “3D Packing Research Application Tool” (3DPackRAT), the software demonstrator shows an avenue to the release of significant additional value by enabling a truly flexible and reactive manufacturing execution methodology that complements the strengths of 3DP. As an integrated approach to the build volume packing and scheduling problems encountered, this tool aims to determine the most appropriate 3DP system for each individual order in an automated process.

Effectively, such tools may allow adopters to leapfrog the gradual evolution of supply chain practise in response to the emergence of 3DP. To achieve this, the integrated computational framework we have implemented enables the inclusion of a wide range of general and location-related aspects in a single optimisation-based production planning procedure. Being fed an order stream, 3DPackRAT is designed to determine the best 3DP system for each build request. Crucially, this approach is also capable of considering the benefits resulting from re-distributed 3DP, driving supply chain structures towards such configurations where beneficial.

Our project was carried out as a collaborative and interdisciplinary programme of work between the 3D Printing Research Group (3DPRG) at the Faculty of Engineering and the Automated Scheduling, Optimisation and Planning (ASAP) Research Group at the School of Computer Science, both at the University of Nottingham, over the course of 2016. The programme consisted of three elements:

  • Formulation of a portfolio of algorithms, heuristics and operational policies capable of addressing the combined build volume packing and scheduling problem for the baseline 3DP technology (Laser Sintering);
  • Development and implementation of the demonstrator system 3DPackRAT up to the status of a minimum viable product, allowing experimentation by 3rd parties;
  • Validation of the demonstrator system by interaction with a group of four industrial domain experts through presentations and live demonstrations, among them high-calibre international members of industry.

The project has demonstrated the possibility of implementing a joined-up approach to build volume packing and machine scheduling in 3DP and has shown that the problem in reality needs to be addressed in a multi-machine and multi-time period setting. Moreover, we have extended existing computational build volume packing methodologies to incorporate temporal aspects to address this problem.

Our interactions with various industrial partners advising the project indicate the requirement for such functionality. The demonstrator described in this report thus provides a first step in addressing the emerging workflow optimisation problem in 3DP in an integrated way.

[Image source: Martin Baumers]

3D printing and sustainability article published in Journal of Cleaner Production

We’re delighted to announce that Simon Ford and Mélanie Despeisse’s paper “Additive manufacturing and sustainability: an exploratory study of the advantages and challenges” has now been published in volume 137 of the Journal of Cleaner Production.

As our project is funded by the EPSRC, the article is open access so free to download. So please download and read the paper and then let us know what you think.


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.

Download the paper here.

[Image source: Mélanie Despeisse]