PDR has a broad interest in the ways in which design practices and design technologies can be applied within both the private and public sectors to improve efficiency and effectiveness. As such, we began to experiment with 3D printing in 1994, first looking at prototyping design ideas and later as a route to small-scale batch manufacture and bespoke medical device production. As these technologies have matured and become more accessible, it is important to continuously re-evaluate their role within organisations.
PDR's strong links with a large network of companies have enabled this report to provide a strong insight into the potential of 3D printing technologies to play an important role in a contemporary re-distributed manufacturing environment.
Much of the reporting on the development of re-distributed manufacturing has a large company focus; however, the impact of the new industrial landscape will be felt across the small to medium-sized enterprise. Those smaller companies that seek ways to embrace emergent manufacturing technologies and are willing to embrace new business models will likely develop significant competitive advantage.
Within this report, such companies will find knowledge and guidance on how their peers are engaging with 3D printing and re-distributed manufacturing. Further, policy-makers will gain insights into how the adoption of technologies can be encouraged within SMEs. Finally, the report helps to establish a research agenda for overcoming the barriers to design-technology driven innovation within an important segment of the economy.
"This research study gave us a great opportunity to explore the barriers faced by smaller companies looking to explore 3D printing as part of a future re-distributed manufacturing model."
Supporting SMEs in creating value through 3D printing enabled redistributed manufacturing
DR PETER DORRINGTON
RESEARCH FELLOW, PROJECT INVESTIGATOR, PDR
The aim of this report was to present a feasibility study investigating the key challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) creating value through 3D printing enabled
re-distributed manufacturing (3DP-RDM). The key challenges investigated in this study include:
the lack of support tools that enable SMEs to see the impact of a 3DP-RDM business model;
the lack of design support tools for both 3DP and RDM;
primary knowledge gaps on 3D printing processes in SMEs;
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.