Tag Archives: Bit by Bit

New Bit by Bit visitor: Cecilia Maria Angioletti

We’re pleased to welcome Cecilia Maria Angioletti as a visitor to the Bit by Bit project to continue investigations into the sustainability implications of 3D printing.Cecilia Angioletti

Cecilia is currently undertaking her doctoral studies in Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy. She gained her Master’s degree with specialisation on production engineering, operations management, corporate strategy and economics. In her Master’s thesis she investigated the location choices of foreign multinational companies through greenfield investments. The implementation of an econometric model supported the empirical analysis.

In her current research Cecilia is looking into how industrial systems can become more resource efficient and sustainable. Specifically, she is focusing on the opportunities for improvements offered by additive manufacturing technologies and how adopting these technologies could enable the implementation of the circular economy paradigm. The promise of additive manufacturing can be seen throughout the product lifecycle: it is claimed that it can reduce energy and material consumption through maintenance, re-use, rework recycling, waste reduction strategies that close the loop. For manufacturing firms, it is thought that adopting additive manufacturing technology will provide an opportunity to enhance their sustainability performance through efficiency improvements that both reduce operating costs and improve competitive advantage.

Despite the significant body of research and evaluation methodologies for sustainability, including life cycle analyses, process optimisation, waste management and environmental protection, there remains scare concrete evidence of the resource efficiency benefits of additive manufacturing. Accordingly, Cecilia is probing into these claims, and in her current project she developed a quantitative assessment tool. While she’s with us in Cambridge she’ll use this tool to analyse to what degree the adoption of additive manufacturing supports the more efficient use of materials and energy.

[Image source: Cecilia Maria Angioletti]

New circular economy and 3D printing working paper

Back in February the Bit by Bit team responded to an EPSRC call for expressions of interest on the theme of the circular economy. As we’d been looking at sustainability issues connected to 3D printing we thought that this would be an excellent call to enable us to advance research in this area. However we knew that we couldn’t do the work alone and so coordinated a research proposal with Fiona Charnley at Cranfield University, Martin Baumers at the University of Nottingham, and Alysia Garmulewicz and Felix Reed-Tsochas at the University of Oxford, and with industrial support from Jonathan Rowley at Digits2Widgets, Scott Knowles at Fila-Cycle, and Phil Brown at the HSSMI.

Unfortunately our expression of interest wasn’t taken to the next stage of the proposal process. Despite this disappointment, the group was convinced of the importance of this work and so we’ve continued to work together, synthesizing our knowledge and perspectives from across our disciplines in a research paper “Unlocking value for a circular economy through 3D printing: a research agenda“. We’ve submitted this paper to the journal, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, and hope that the research agenda it outlines can provide a platform for other researchers to build on.



The circular economy (CE) aims to radically improve resource efficiency by eliminating the concept of waste and leading to a shift away from the linear take-make-waste model. In a CE, resources are flowing in a circular manner either in a biocycle (biomass) or technocycle (inorganic materials). While early studies indicate that 3D printing (3DP) holds substantial promise for sustainability and the creation of a CE, there is no guarantee that it will do so. There is great uncertainty regarding whether the current trajectory of 3DP adoption is creating more circular material flows or if it is leading to an alternative scenario in which less eco-efficient localised production, demands for customised goods, and a higher rate of product obsolescence combine to bring about increased resource consumption. It is critical that CE principles are embedded into the new manufacturing system before the adoption of 3DP reaches a critical inflection point in which negative practices become entrenched. This paper, authored by both academic and industry experts, proposes a research agenda to determine enablers and barriers for 3DP to achieve a CE. We explore the two following overarching questions to discover what specific issues they entail: (1) How can a more distributed manufacturing system based on 3DP create a circular economy of closed-loop material flows? (2) What are the barriers to a circular 3D printing economy? We specifically examine six areas—design, supply chains, information flows, entrepreneurship, business models and education—with the aim of formulating a research agenda to enable 3DP to reach its full potential for a CE.

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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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Product life extension through additive manufacturing

Bit by Bit researchers have submitted an article in response to a call for papers from the Journal of Industrial Ecology on the environmental dimensions of additive manufacturing and 3D printing. The article, Product life extension through additive manufacturing: The business model implications, is co-authored by Mélanie Despeisse and Simon Ford from the Bit by Bit project, and by Anna Viljakainen from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.


Additive manufacturing has the potential to transform the industrial landscape and to move industry towards more sustainable modes of production and consumption. There is a growing number of examples of products and processes redesigned forAM as companies are beginning to discover the potential benefits of AM across the product life cycle. In this paper we focus on the use and end-of-life phases of the product life cycle to ask: How can the application of additive manufacturing enable product life extension? Three technical approaches to product life extension through AM have been identified: (1) improved durability of products through redesign; (2) production of spare parts using the make-to-order model to enhance companies’ capability to repair and remanufacturing products; (3) direct in-situ repair of worn, damaged and broken parts. With the availability of AM technologies to extend product life, companies may increasingly adopt service-based business models to align with sustainability goals, thereby decoupling the social and economic value created from the environmental impacts of production and consumption. A series of propositions linking this theory to AM and product life extension are developed, providing an agenda for future research in this domain.