Because of its economics of scale and elimination of complexity, additive manufacturing (AM), for example with 3D printing, allow us cheaply and quickly to iterate our design ideas into repeated forms to validate the product-solution fit, even to customize products down to user/market of one customer.
We can go through many successive design ideas at low cost and minimum time investment to create physical mock-ups to see if they actually solve a user’s problem. With AM, we do not just simulate but we actually replicate the core experience of our ideas with the smallest possible investment of time and money to see if customers will actually use it.
This type of pretotyping allows us to combine design and manufacturing so that we can fail fast enough and cheaply enough so that we have time and resources to try something different. We can be sure, in the words of Savoia, we are building the right it before we build it right. AM makes sure we have found the right it.
3D can turn our ideas into a testable products that can satisfy your customers’ needs just enough to help you design your business model. Additive manufacturing allows design and manufacturing to fuse.
A startling example of how entrepreneurs tested their problem- solution fit is the Liberator, a physible[i], 3D-printable single-shot handgun whose design plans were released on the Internet in 2013. Customer response was enormous: The plans were downloaded over 100,000 times in the two days before the US demanded its retraction. Since then dozens of weapon plans have been uploaded to the Internet.[ii]
Most common today is fused deposition modelling (FDM), which lays down material in layers. With the expiration of the patent on this technology, there is now a large open-source development community (called RepRap), or replicating rapid prototyper), as well as commercial and DIY variants, which utilize this type of 3D printer. This has led to two orders of magnitude price drop since this technology’s creation.
3D printing now has the ability to change business model innovation completely, by enabling us to rapidly prototype and adapt business models in many industries.
- 3D printing is pushing the boundaries of the fashion design industry by providing not just sketches, but full-blown ensembles that have been 3D printed—from the seams down to the threads.
- Mink Printer uses pigments and powder to produce over a hundred types of makeup in more than 16 million hues.
- 3D printed meat feels like meat (especially the steak), but it’s actually made out of a mixture of peas, seaweed, and beetroot juice.
- The International Space Station is looking into installing 3D printers into their flight vessels, because of the convenience of printing damaged parts,
Imagine a new business model called ‘home fabrication’.[iii] It is so revolutionary that it may spell ‘The End of Walmart’ as we know it.[iv] You can print your household needs on a RepRap to a 0.1 mm accuracy, which would allow anyone to manufacture artefacts used in everyday life.
This new business model liberates restrictive IP to the global community as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), and has become known as the ‘Libre Business Model’. The reasoning behind libre is that large-scale open-source collaborations result in superior designs and lower costs (e.g. Android, WordPress, Joomla).[v]
Every consumer who owns a 3D printer can become part of the value network and can target even the smallest target market segment economically, what is called ‘economies of one’. This will undoubtedly lead to a sharp increase in competition, from SMEs and individual entrepreneurs, but also from ‘prosumers’.[vi]
[i] Physible’ means data object that is capable of being manufactured as a physical object using an additive manufacturing process such as with a 3D printer.
[ii] Gibbs, S. (2013, November 8). First metal 3D printed gun is capable of firing 50 shots. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/08/metal-3d-printed-gun-50-shots; Greenberg, A. (n.d.). Meet The “Liberator”: Test-Firing The World’s First Fully 3D-Printed Gun. Retrieved June 15, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/05/05/meet-the-liberator-test-firing-the-worlds-first-fully-3d-printed-gun/; List of 3D printed weapons and parts. (2017, June 14). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_3D_printed_weapons_and_parts&oldid=785689683
[iii] business a.m. (2020, March 14). Six industries being disrupted by 3D printing. Businessamlive. https://www.businessamlive.com/six-industries-being-disrupted-by-3d-printing/ ; Rayna, T., & Striukova, L. (2014). The Impact of 3D Printing Technologies on Business Model Innovation. In Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing (Vol. 261, pp. 119–132). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-04313-5_11
[iv] Klein, J. (n.d.). It’s the end of Walmart—And mass-market retail—As you know it. Quartz. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://qz.com/144257/its-the-end-of-walmart-and-mass-market-retail-as-you-know-it/; Marcin. 2009. “RepRap. The End of Walmart.” Open Source Ecology. http://opensourceecology.org/reprap-the-end-of-walmart/ ;
[v] Ravestein, R. (n.d.). Free Software is Serious Business. LibrePractice – Wiki. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://wiki.librepractice.org/doku.php?id=free-software-is-serious-business
[vi] Bogers, M., Hadar, R., & Bilberg, A. (2015). Business Models for Additive Manufacturing: Exploring Digital Technologies, Consumer Roles, and Supply Chains. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2638054 ; Gibson, Ian, David W. Rosen, and Brent Stucker. 2010. “Design for Additive Manufacturing.” In Additive Manufacturing Technologies, 299–332. Springer. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-4419-1120-9_11 ; Lutter-Günther, M., Seidel, C., Kamps, T., & Reinhart, G. (2015). Implementation of Additive Manufacturing Business Models. Applied Mechanics and Materials, 794, 547. https://www.scientific.net/amm.794.547; Pearce, J. M. (2017). Emerging Business Models for Open Source Hardware. Journal of Open Hardware, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.5334/joh.4; Petrick, I. J., & Simpson, T. W. (2013). Point of View: 3D Printing Disrupts Manufacturing: How Economies of One Create New Rules of Competition. Research-Technology Management, 56(6), 12–16. https://doi.org/10.5437/08956308X5606193 ; Rayna, Thierry, and Ludmila Striukova. 2016. “From Rapid Prototyping to Home Fabrication: How 3D Printing Is Changing Business Model Innovation.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 102: 214–224. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040162515002425 .
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