June 19, 2019

Reviewing research on 3D Printing

At #RnDParis2019 today, I presented an updated overview of the business and economic research on #3Dprinting — almost all in the past five years. The talk was part of two 3DP sessions within the 2019 R&D Management Conferece hosted by Thierry Rayna, Frank Piller & I. They were also the follow up to the 2019 3D printing workshop hosted at École Polytechnique and the 2014 workshop held at RWTH Aachen.
The talk covered these themes

  • History of 3D printing industry (from West & Kuk, 2016)
  • Some stats on management/business research on 3D printing
  • Ideas and suggestions on how 3D printing research could have more impact

My slides have been uploaded to SlideShare. The full list of references is found as a Google Doc here. Please send me any corrections (although I will filter the list for business/econ publications).


Existing Publications

Using SSCI business/management papers I found 82 papers that mention "3D printing" or "3D printers" in the topic. Interestingly, 30% of the SSCI citations are to the 17 papers in Technology Forecasting and Social Change, most to the January 2016 special issue on 3D printing. (I have the unviable claim to have published the least cited paper in the special issue — a case study on Makerbot).

Having a Greater Impact

Today I repeated a call I made at last year’s workshop. In it, I encouraged scholars — or at least those who need to make careers at status-conscious universities — to have more rigorous research that can be published in the top journals:

  • Strong empirics
  • Stronger theory, more general contribution
  • Get beyond the phenomenon

The latter point is to have an impact beyond 3D printing research. I cited two literatures where I’ve contributed (but much later than others) to finding implications beyond the industry and phenomenon:

  • Open source: Managing online communities; Coordinating, governing decentralized production; Fine-tuning degrees of openness
  • Crowdsourcing: Matching seekers/solvers; Motivating contributors; Optimizing collaboration models

How far has 3D printing come so far? In my database of 3D printing articles, I found 7 papers in either FT or near-FT journals:

  1. Ben-Ner & Siemsen, “Decentralization and Localization of Production: The Organizational and Economic Consequences of Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing),” California Management Review, 2017
  2. Garmulewicz et al, “Disruptive Technology as an Enabler of the Circular Economy: What Potential Does 3D Printing Hold?” California Management Review, 2018
  3. Unruh, “Circular Economy, 3D Printing, and the Biosphere Rules,” California Management Review, 2018
  4. d’Aveni, “The 3-D printing revolution,” Harvard Business Review, 2015
  5. Rindfleisch et al, “The Digital Revolution, 3D Printing, and Innovation as Data,” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2017
  6. Kyriakou et al, “Knowledge Reuse For Customization: Metamodels In An Open Design Community For 3D Printing,” MIS Quarterly, 2017
  7. Greul et al, “Open at birth? Why new firms do (or don't) use open innovation,” Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 2018

#1-5 are really about managerial implications of 3D printing: something of interest that needs to be published, but most will have limited influence beyond 3D printing.

#6 is about Thingiverse, and contributes to the literature on knowledge sharing and reuse in online communities (a recent topic of interest by MISQ).

#7 is the paper that I, Anne Greul and Simon Bock first presented at the 2014 workshop (where it was just a research plan with no data). It is about how startup companies use inbound open innovation to launch their firms, and how they practice selective revealing: the sample is of startup 3D printer manufacturers.

By comparison, the first special issue on open source (Research Policy June 2003) was about the phenomenon — with modest methods. The second special issue (Management Science July 2006) was about better methods and (in some cases) a more direct contribution to generalizable theory.

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