Tag Archives: special issue

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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The Emergence of Additive Manufacturing – special issue of TFSC published

We’re delighted to announced that the special issue of Technological Forecasting & Social Change that we’ve been co-ordinating has now been published online.

As part of a double-header special issue, our section features the seven papers previously announced and an introduction from myself and my fellow guest co-editors Letizia Mortara and Tim Minshall. In the introduction we provide an overview of the domain and summarise the contributions of each of the papers. Drawing on the findings of the papers and our own research, we go on to identify future research questions that could be explored. These questions are summarised in the table below.

We hope that you’ll read and share these papers with your colleagues working in the AM/3DP world, along with anyone else who’s interested in this fascinating technology.


Table 1. Potential research questions relating to additive manufacturing (Ford, Mortara and Minshall, 2016)

Category Sub-categories Potential research questions
Value context Market trends & drivers
  • What are the effects of AM on global manufacturing systems?
  • What are the implications of AM on industrial sustainability?
  • How does the emergence of AM intersect with other political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental?
Government policy
  • What types of public policy are effective at supporting the emergence of AM?
  • What policies are necessary to ensure that sufficient AM skills are acquired within the workforce?
  • How can the distributed nature of AM support regional regeneration?
Regulations & standards
  • How is the transition being made to the 3MF file format?
  • How are proprietary and open material standards affecting AM adoption?
  • How are quality standards defined and upheld in a distributed AM landscape?
  • Who has liability for AM-produced goods?
Industrial dynamics & competition
  • Who are the actors that are creating and capturing value and where in the AM ecosystem are they doing so?
  • When and how have new entrants disrupted established industries through AM?
  • In what circumstances have established companies maintained their competitive position through AM?
  • How is AM enabling greater customer involvement in the manufacturing process?
  • What are the different characteristics of AM prosumers and how are such prosumers using AM?
Value capture Business models & strategies
  • What types of business models are being adopted in the AM ecosystem and which of these are proving more successful?
  • When and how does AM enable product-service business models?
  • How are companies responding to intellectual property rights disputes caused by AM?
  • Under what circumstances does AM lower the barrier to market entry?
Applications, product & services
  • What new products and services will be possible through AM?
  • How have been/is being /will be customisation and personalisation applied through AM?
Support services
  • How can AM be used for maintenance, repair, spare part and remanufacturing activities?
  • How can the use of AM extend the life of products and components?
Sales & marketing
  • What are customer perceptions of AM and how are they changing?
  • Where in the hype cycle are different categories of AM?
  • What price premiums can be achieved through the use of AM for personalisation?
  • How is AM changing mechanisms of distribution?
  • How are retailers incorporating AM applications into their business models?
  • How are online AM platforms and communities evolving?
  • What are the challenges to integrating AM into existing operations?
  • How is the automation of AM improving its cost efficiency?
  • How is AM being integrated into hybrid manufacturing systems?
Supply networks
  • How is the application of AM changing the structure and complexity of supply networks?
  • What types of suppliers are being disintermediated through the application of AM?
Value creation Design
  • What is design for AM and how can it be integrated with other design principles?
  • What types of applications are being redesigned to take advantage of AM design freedoms and why?
  • How are designers’ attitudes to AM changing?
  • How are engineers developing understanding of AM principles?
  • What factors determine whether companies should make or buy AM components and products?
  • What effect will a greater understanding of material properties and the development of new materials have on the adoption of AM?
  • What processes should companies use to certify AM components in specific sectors?
  • Why are some organisations making the transition to AM and not others?
  • How is the adoption of AM changing the constellation of relationships within industrial ecosystems?
  • How is trust established in a distributed AM landscape?
  • What skills are needed to effectively use AM and how are they being acquired?
  • How successful have crowdfunding-backed 3D printing companies been?

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TFSC Special Issue Update

Our special issue of Technological Forecasting and Social Change is getting closer to publication as all seven of the papers that will feature in the special issue are now available online. Thanks go to all the authors for their contributions. In addition of these articles the special issue will feature an introduction written by us (the three guest editors, Simon Ford, Letizia Mortara and Tim Minshall). Although not yet published yet, a preview of the introduction “The Emergence of Additive Manufacturing” can be found on ResearchGate here.

The seven papers in the special issue:

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Call for papers: Environmental Dimensions of Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing

The Journal of Industrial Ecology has recently announced a call for papers for a special issue on the topic “Environmental Dimensions of Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing”.

Possible topics that could be addressed include the following:

  • Theorizing, describing and analyzing the resource consumption patterns and environmental impacts associated with additive manufacturing technology on the machine, supply chain and aggregate levels.
  • Assessing the impact of novel supply chain configurations and of the availability of new generations of products resulting from innovative design approaches, for example based on optimization methods or personalization.
  • Assessment of occupational health issues including toxicology of emissions, exposure control approaches and exposure assessment including risks arising from manufacturing in non-traditional settings (home, hobbyist, and maker settings)
  • Investigation of the potential for and barriers to increased repair and remanufacturing arising from additive manufacturing.
  • Establishing robust environmental indicators (e.g. carbon emissions, water consumption, land use and pollution) and economic indicators (e.g. value added, employment, inequality) for comparison with conventional manufacturing routes.
  • Environmental, social science, economic/business, and engineering analysis of the implications of localized and highly customized production enabled by additive manufacturing.
  • Collating datasets that allow an exploration of the trade-offs occurring across additive manufacturing supply chains.
  • Analyzing the environmental performance of the latest developments within additive manufacturing technology, including systems capable of depositing multiple materials and high-productivity platforms.

The deadline for submissions is 31 December 2015.

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