The Decentralized and Networked Future of Value Creation

Part of the series Progress in IS pp 179-204


3D Printing as Driver of Localized Manufacturing: Expected Benefits from Producer and Consumer Perspectives

  • Christoph IhlAffiliated withTUHH Institute of Entrepreneurship, Hamburg University of Technology Email author 
  • , Frank PillerAffiliated withTechnology and Innovation Management, Research Area Technology, Innovation, Marketing & Entrepreneurship, RWTH Aachen University

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Ihl and Piller address the promise of 3D printing technologies to re-localize production in closer proximity to markets and end customers by exploring microeconomic benefits for producers and consumers. These technologies give rise to new possibilities at the intersection of production and consumption and fuel recent trends like mass customization and the maker movement. Building upon these premises, the authors propose the concept of “FabStores”, i.e. decentralized, close-to-market mini-factories that allow interaction with customers during localized manufacturing processes. The concept is validated in terms of expected benefits from producer and consumer perspectives by the means of a survey of 39 experts in production management, as well as 788 consumers. Results show that, from a producer perspective, the availability of 3D printing technologies alone will only have limited impact on the localization of manufacturing next to other, more important drivers. From a consumer perspective, “FabStores” are valuable if they can offer higher sustainability, participation in production and shorter delivery times. Finally, “FabStores” may compensate for a lack of brand reputation and thus offer new opportunities for user and maker entrepreneurship.