Bit by bit: Capturing the value from the digital fabrication revolution

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering

Abstract

Digital fabrication (which includes processes termed 'additive manufacturing' or '3D printing') is underpinning a manufacturing revolution. Covering a broad range of technologies that offer the prospects of on-demand, mass personalisation, with more localised, flexible and sustainable production. Digital fabrication is disrupting the organisation of manufacturing and the ways in which companies capture value.
This transformation is only just beginning to become apparent. At present, digital fabrication technologies are widely used for prototyping and have already been adopted in certain niche markets for small production runs of high value - high complexity products. For example, digital fabrication technologies are being used in the aerospace sector and Formula 1 in order to design and produce lighter and complex structural components. These production technologies are also being used in traditional craft sectors such as jewellery, and where product personalisation to the human body is important such as dental implants and hearing aids. As digital fabrication technologies improve, the range of industrial and consumer applications is expected to explode. Digital fabrication has attracted significant attention in the last year to the extent that there is danger of it becoming overhyped. Yet despite significant uncertainty about where in the manufacturing networks value will be captured, an increasing number of entrepreneurial ventures are being attracted to this area. Using a diverse range of business models, these ventures are searching for applications where digital fabrication technologies can offer value. A range of business models is apparent, from the application of these technologies to substitute traditional manufacturing processes in factories, to the creation of 'on-demand' products by consumers at home. This diversity in business models reflects the broad range of commercial opportunities enabled by these digital fabrication technologies, and the high level of market and technological uncertainty typifying this emerging sector. As digital fabrication is gaining wider adoption, a number of economic challenges are also becoming apparent. These include intellectual property issues regarding the respect for and policing of design rights, industry acceptance for standard 3D model file types, and approaches for resolving product liability for mass personalised products. It is essential to identify and remedy challenges such as these before they become barriers to economic growth.

The UK is relatively well placed in terms of its technical expertise in digital fabrication. Recent public and private investments have sought to improve the maturity of these technologies and position the UK as a technical leader in this domain. However, the failure to give appropriate consideration to translating technical leadership into commercial leadership is a problem that has historically stymied UK economic growth. If the UK is to keep its position of excellence in high value manufacturing and compete internationally then it is essential that the UK learns from previous disruptive innovations and establishes a national digital fabrication community that combines technical, commercial and policy perspectives. Doing so will allow the UK to be well positioned for the inevitable consolidation that will occur as dominant technologies and business models emerge. This project aims to ensure that the UK does so by addressing three key questions relating to the emergence of digital fabrication:

1. How will digital fabrication affect the manufacturing landscape?
2. What impacts will this revolution have on manufacturing in the UK?
3. How can UK firms become global leaders in this new age of digital manufacturing?

Planned Impact

The impact of this project will be in five areas:
1. Creating a national digital fabrication community
This community will be a key asset for research and commercialisation activities in this field. As an emerging area of industrial activity, the digital fabrication landscape is highly fragmented. To connect the diverse stakeholders, a range of events will be run throughout the project. These events will culminate with a National Conference on Digital Fabrication at the end of each year of the project. Our broad community of Advisory Group members will use their connections with policymakers, investors, managers, 'makers', scientists and technologists to help target appropriate attendees. The conference will include networking opportunities, technology demonstrations, presentations from industry participants, and dissemination of our research findings.
2. Influencing national policy
In order to enact appropriate policies to enable the UK to become a global leader in digital fabrication, policymakers have told us of the need to be better informed on digital fabrication technologies and how companies are capturing value. Policymakers will be involved from the start of the project, and to ensure sustained interactions, Policy Fellowships will be organised through our partnership with the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP). Our partnerships with the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation, CSaP, the IET & NESTA will be of particular value in ensuring strong policymaker engagement.
3. Improving investor confidence
This project will interact with the investment community with the aim of (i) improving the attractiveness of the digital fabrication industry as an investment opportunity (ii) helping avoid oscillations in investment levels that can result from 'over-hyping' of disruptive technologies and (iii) exploring the ways in which the use of digital fabrication technologies for demonstrators may support the raising of investor confidence. Through our Advisory Group members, we will be seeking to ensure that the role of the 'maker' community in driving forward innovative concepts is explored and communicated. Two reports will be produced targeting investors. The first will describe the current state of the art in digital fabrication; the second report will provide an improved understanding of the business models being tested in the digital fabrication market and the potential for future disruptions.
4. Supporting commercialisation of digital fabrication technologies
Through our support for the development of a national roadmap for digital fabrication, we will be improving understanding of the opportunities and barriers for the successful commercialisation of these technologies.
The involvement of our RAEng Visiting Professors of Innovation supports this strand of activity. Each of the Visiting Professors (Sam Beale - ex-head of technology strategy at Rolls-Royce; Rick Mitchell - ex-CTO of Domino Printing Sciences, and Pieter Knook - ex-President of Microsoft Asia) has both deep personal experience of the commercialisation of advanced technology, but also specific interests in different aspects of digital fabrication (i.e. aerospace applications, the use of inkjet technologies, and the software issues). Their involvement will help ensure that the messages relating to the commercialisation of digital fabrication are appropriately packaged and targeted.
5. Furthering academic investigation
Research findings generated during the project will be disseminated at international conferences and through leading academic journals. We have also planned a special issue of the journal Technological Forecasting & Social Change. In addition, we are discussing with the IET how the outputs of this cross-disciplinary research could be disseminated through their various channels. These will provide valuable routes to publish developments in digital fabrication in an accessible manner to academics and practitioners alike

Publications

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Deradjat D (2017) Implementation of rapid manufacturing for mass customisation in Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

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Deradjat D (2018) Decision trees for implementing rapid manufacturing for mass customisation in CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology

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Despeisse M (2017) Unlocking value for a circular economy through 3D printing: A research agenda in Technological Forecasting and Social Change

 
Description Our aim has been to understand the barriers and enablers for the use of 3D printing (also known as 'Additive Manufacturing') technologies. We have done this by examining the connections between technical, business, social, and policy issues.
In the first year, we focused our efforts on understanding the history of this technology, i.e. how we got to where we are now. We have done this by researching and writing case studies of how different companies in different industries have been developing and using this technology. In broad terms, there are three ways these technologies are used: for prototyping (i.e. making models to test ideas), tooling (i.e. making a mould from which lots of similar products can be made) and direct manufacturing (i.e. making a final finished part).
In the second year of our research, we have explored the ways in which business activities are changing by the use of these technologies. This is both in terms of large manufacturing business such as Rolls-Royce using 3D printing to change the way they make their jet engines, but also how the use of these technologies can allow new firms to do new things (e.g. start-up firms are now able to quickly and cheaply make prototypes of their products to show potential customers). We have also observed how businesses are finding different ways to create value from this technology by either making and selling the 3D printers, supplying the materials used by the 3D printers, or providing services to help people access 3D printing technology as a service. As part of this work, we worked as part of the team that has developed the UK's national strategy for 3D printing, to help guide the government and industry in developing a strong infrastructure for 3D printing in the UK.
In the final stage of the research, we created and tested possible future scenarios for the use of 3D printing in ways that could radically change things in the healthcare and food sectors, and also considered the impact of these technologies on issues of sustainability.
Exploitation Route 1. Our industry case studies and 'emergence maps' provide a useful resource for those seeking to understand the complexity of the interconnected technical, business and policy issues associated with this technology.
2. We have documented and made publicly available all the data captured for the development of the UK's national strategy for 3D printing (http://www.amnationalstrategy.uk/). This data provides a valuable 'snapshot' of the perceptions of 100+ organisations working in 3D printing-related areas during the period of this research.
3. Our scenarios and business model analysis both provide a resource for companies and researchers seeking to understand the impact and potential of these technologies.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/research/teg/digital-fabrication/
 
Description Activities throughout our research and engagement activities have helped support a more informed debate and guided new research on the complex interconnected technical, business and policy issues that the emergence of additive manufacturing/3D printing presents. This is evidenced by: (1) Our involvement in the development the UK's National Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing Strategy (member of steering group along with InnovateUK, MTC, BIS, Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace, et al., organising multi-stakeholder workshops for 120+ organisations; running a national Call for Evidence; providing data analysis to structure ongoing thematic workgroup activities; involvement in thematic workgroup activities) (2) Multiple invitations to present our findings at practitioner conferences that bring together diverse Additive Manufacturing/3D printing stakeholder groups from the worlds of technology, business and policy (e.g. IET Manufacturing and Innovation Conference, Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Conference, et al.) (3) Our following on social media (>1300 followers on twitter, blog = https://capturingthevalue.wordpress.com/) and views of our video resources on the use 3D/AM technologies (e.g. >100k views of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsJLZ1UYxGc, >14k views of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcTzyx35odY).
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description IET Innovation and Emerging Technologies Policy Panel
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL http://www.theiet.org/policy/panels/innovation/
 
Description Membership of Steering Group for development of the UK National Strategy for Additive Manufacturing
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact We have been working in partnership with InnovateUK, BIS, HVM Catapult and a range of industrial partners to ensure UK firms are able to capture value from the opportunities presented by the emergence of 3D printing / additive manufacturing, and that barriers (such as knowledge of these technologies, skills required, availability of finance for trialling the technologies, etc) are understood and addressed.
URL http://www.amnationalstrategy.uk/
 
Description 3DP-RDM: Defining the research agenda for 3D printing enabled re-distributed manufacturing
Amount £467,623 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M017656/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 12/2016
 
Description EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account - Knowledge Transfer Fellowship
Amount £55,987 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 04/2019
 
Description IAA KTF - PepsiCo 
Organisation Walkers Cabinets
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr S. Flammini has been awarded an EPSRC IAA KTF grant and has obtained the collaboration of PepsiCo. This fellowship aimed to support the development of additive-digital manufacturing capabilities in the UK, starting with initiating change within the largest UK industry sectors, including Food & Beverage. To this end we partnered with PepsiCo to develop new business models for the exploitation of 3D printing technologies.
Collaborator Contribution The execution of this project has been mainly workshop-based, including participation in discussions during several internal meetings, and informal discussion with managers (including VP, senior team manager, senior project manager, project manager, engineer). Further managers participated in 4 half-day workshops based on a customized version of the tools emerging from the research done during the Bit by bit project with Dr Mortara and Prof Minshall.
Impact PepsiCo has been demonstrating an appreciation for the method and is considering embedding it in their own processes. The specific topics discussed have helped managers frame the implications for an emergent technology in their own industry/business. PepsiCo have not only been showing interest in the project, but also in possible future collaborations with the University of Cambridge. For this purpose, managers came to Cambridge at the IfM and talked with several colleagues. Future steps are being discussed.
Start Year 2017
 
Description IAA-KTF - P&G 
Organisation Procter & Gamble
Department Procter & Gamble (United Kingdom)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr S. Flammini has been awarded an EPSRC IAA KTF grant and has obtained the collaboration of Procter and Gamble. This fellowship aimed to support the development of additive-digital manufacturing capabilities in the UK, starting with initiating change within the largest UK industry sectors including Fast Moving Consumer Goods. To this end we partnered with Procter and Gamble to develop new business models for the exploitation of 3D printing technologies.
Collaborator Contribution The execution of this project has been mainly workshop-based, including participation in discussions during several internal meetings, and informal discussion with managers (including senior team manager, open innovation and project manager, project manager, principal engineers). Further managers participated in 8 half-day workshops based on a customized version of the tools emerging from the research done during the Bit by bit project with Dr Mortara and Prof Minshall.
Impact Procter and Gamble has been demonstrating an appreciation for the method and is considering embedding it in their own processes. The specific topics discussed have helped managers frame the implications for an emergent technology in their own industry/business. Future steps are being discussed.
Start Year 2017
 
Description New Economic Models in the Digital Economy (NEMODE) 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are active members of this network which brings together research teams funded through the RCUK New Economic Models in the Digital Economy call.
Collaborator Contribution NEMODE provides a platform for connecting diverse research groups working on a broad range of research themes related to digital technologies.
Impact Broadening our project's engagement with a wide range of social science and computer science research groups working on Digital Economy topics.
Start Year 2013
 
Description 3DP-RDM workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Workshops were run with representatives from academia and industry to (a) scope and design possible feasibility studies, and form potential collaborations for the delivery of these studies and (b) disseminate the results of these studies. Each workshop attracted 40-50 participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL https://capturingthevalue.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/3dp-rdm-dissemination-and-scoping-workshops/
 
Description Bit by Bit LinkedIn 3D Printing Interest Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Our LinkedIn group has proved particularly effective in allowing us to maintain an on-going with a broad range of stakeholders within the business community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL https://www.linkedin.com/groups/6618386
 
Description Capturing the Value blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The 'Capturing the Value' blog acts as a channel for us to disseminate updates on all aspects of our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL https://capturingthevalue.wordpress.com/
 
Description DFab twitter feed 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Our twitter account allows to provide short updates on our research progress and outputs to a wide audience, and to engage with the fast evolving 3D printing community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL https://twitter.com/dfab_info
 
Description Development of UK National Strategy for AM - steering group, workshops, on-line survey, thematic working groups 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Working in collaboration with InnovateUK, BIS, Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), KTN, and industry and academic partners, we have been helping to develop a UK National Strategy for Additive Manufacturing. This has included:
1. Running a series of multi-stakeholder workshops to identify the perceived barriers and opportunities for additive manufacturing in the UK. These events were attended by over 160 people representing 143 organisations.
2. Running an open Call for Evidence to draw in more detailed information and data on the barriers and opportunities for additive manufacturing in the UK.
3. Analysing the large volume of data generated from the workshops and call for evidence, and drawing out key themes that then provided the structure for the formation of a series of industry-led thematic working groups.
4. Supporting the production of a strategy document to be published under the InnovateUK banner to help ensure that UK firms are able to benefit from the potential provided by additive manufacturing.
Details of all the activities undertaken as well as the raw data generated have been made accessible via http://www.amnationalstrategy.uk/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.amnationalstrategy.uk/
 
Description Interviews for BBC Radio 5 Live broadcasts / Naked Scientist podcasts for programmes on 3D printing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Numerous follow-ups from people who heard the show and wanted to learn more about our research on the potential impact of 3D printing.

Numerous follow-ups from people who heard the show and wanted to learn more about our research on the potential impact of 3D printing
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2016
URL http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/interviews/interview/1001666/
 
Description Presentations at industry events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact From the start of our 3D printing projects, we have received invitations to present our research plans and interim findings at industry conferences, workshops and seminars. Examples of such include:

9th Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Conference (2014)
IET Innovative Manufacturing Conference (2014)
Food and Drink Innovation Network (2015)
Shell Innovation Roundtable (2015)
Digital Technologies for Manufacturing Innovation: Embracing Industry 4.0 (2015)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
URL https://capturingthevalue.wordpress.com/
 
Description Talks at local schools / science festivals 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We have been delivering 4-6 talks per year in regional schools and at the Cambridge Science Festival, using 3D printing as a theme for raising awareness of STEM - both as subjects to study and potential career. We deliver these talks as part of school assemblies (typically 30-100 pupils per event) or as talks at our Science Festival (typically 100 attendees per talk (delivered twice)). Almost every talk has led to request for further engagement, or to deliver similar events to different audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.sciencefestival.cam.ac.uk/events/manufacturing-your-future-how-engineers-make-life-better