Incentives and challanges in the additive manufacturing industry

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Wictor Johansson and Tomas Wennmo

Faculty of engineering at Lund university


Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D-printing is a technology that has gotten a lot of attention the recent years. So far the technology has been used for prototyping in the product development process but now the technology is being adopted more broadly and it is started being used in the manufacturing industry to produce products for end users.


In the beginning of the 60s the first attempts of solidifying liquid

photopolymer were successful and that became the beginning of the development of 3D-printing. In 1987 the first 3D-printer was commercialized by 3D-systems and since then the technology has been more and more commonly used for prototyping. Recently the technology has gotten more attention and the unique possibilities together with the increased performance and decreasing price of the machines have made the technology attractive for final part production.

The master thesis “Incentives and

challenges for adopting AM technology in the plastic Industry” (Wennmo &

Johansson, 2016) investigates the

possibilities that the technology creates for the plastic industry and also identifies and evaluate the challenges that are affecting the rate of adoption. The delimitations of the study are to focus on companies in the plastic industry that uses injection

moulding as their main manufacturing method to make the comparison between AM and an established manufacturing method. The incentives and challenges paint a picture of how the different applications of the technology will be adopted.

Methodology and Theoretical framework

The first stage of the study was to assess the technology in terms of what different types of 3D-printing processes that are available in the market and what

advantages, limitations, opportunities and constraints there are with AM technology. A short introduction to injection moulding was also added to highlight the differences between the technology to understand the trade-offs in the choice of method. In this part of the study multiple sources of information were used; qualitative interviews, a qualitative survey and literature sources.

In the study six companies were

interviewed to receive information about their company and how additive

manufacturing could be integrated in their operations. To be able to gather and categorize relevant information from the companies Hill’s framework for

manufacturing strategy was used (Hill, 2000). This model highlights the

connection between marketing strategy and operations strategy, two fields that are affected by the decision to adopt 3D-printing.


  Figure  1  -­‐  Hill's  model  for  manufacturing  strategy   The purpose of using this model was to see how well an additive manufacturing

method would fit into the company. Therefore, the incentives and challenges with the integration of 3D-printing was investigated in each of the case companies. In the analysis of the gathered information from the technology assessment and the case companies, the resistance model created by MacVaugh and Schiavone were used. The model uses a cross disciplinary approach and focuses on the limitations of the diffusion of innovations. There are three categories of resistance factors; technology, social structure and learning. These resistance factors can influence the adoption in three domains; the individual domain, the community of users and the market/industry domain, due to the threefold nature of most economic phenomena. (MacVaugh & Schiavone, 2010)

  Figure  2  -­‐  The  resistance  model  by  MacVaugh  and   Schiavone


The main incentives for adopting 3D-printing for the companies in the focus group have to do with the unique possibilities the technology gives the companies. That they can create value for their customers by offering new services and new ways of manufacturing products. The most important opportunities that the technology creates are shorter lead times, no tool investment needed, ability to decentralize production, reduction of material waste and customization for a low cost.

When it comes to the challenges there are technical aspects like long cycle time, small build area, mechanical properties and surface resolution. There are also some structural problems like a lack of different materials choices for 3D-printing, lack of knowledge of how to optimize design with 3D-printing and lack of experience of how to use the production method. To be able to decentralize the production networks there is also a problem with the

repeatability of 3D-printing. The reliability of the process is important so that the same outcome is achieved every time and

everywhere. The repeatability is lowered because of the low level of standardization in the additive manufacturing industry. In the plastic industry there is also a need for more industrialized machines with better reparability and automatisation to be able to use additive manufacturing in a larger extent.


Additive manufacturing methods have a lot of different advantages and is suitable for many types of applications. For example, to produce prosthetics in the medical sector or tools and fixtures in the industrial


sector. It does not compete with one single production method or in one single

industry. Therefore, it seems like the application areas for the technology is fragmented and that is a factor that will slow down the adoption rate of the technology.

One aspect that were identified in this study as very important was the design process. The design process is the key to exploiting the advantages of the

technology. The lack of experience and knowledge of how to design for additive manufacturing is going to be a problem for the diffusion of the technology. In this study, two types of companies were identified; the companies who develop, market, produce and sell their own products for the end consumer and

companies that produce as a sub-contractor to other companies that market and sell to the end consumer. The first group is more likely to adopt 3D-printing because they think more about the needs of the end consumer and the choice of manufacturing process is directly linked with the creation of value to their customers. The second group is more focused on optimizing the manufacturability and the efficiency of the manufacturing process because the value they create for their customers is the efficiency and service level that they can deliver.

The lack of materials is a problem in the plastic industry. In the focus group of this study, companies that uses injection moulding, it is a disadvantage that they cannot always choose the 3D-print in the same material as they injection mould. Popular plastic materials as POM does not exist for 3D-printing which restrict the application areas that can be used with the

technology. Other types of material development are also needed like making photopolymers more durable, heat resistant and impact resistant. It is also a problem for the companies that there is no dominant design for the additive manufacturing processes. The different processes have different advantages and companies that would want to adopt 3D-printing have to trade off some advantages.


Hill, T. (2000). Manufacturing Strategy. Second Edition. New York: Palgrave. MacVaugh, J., & Schiavone, F. (2010). Limits to the diffusion of innovation - A litterature review and integrative model. European journal of innovation

management , 13, ss. 197-221.

Wennmo, T., & Johansson, W. (2016). Incentives and Challanges for adopting additive manufacturing in the plastic industry. Lund University, Lund.  




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