Transitioning additive manufacturing from rapid prototyping to high-volume production: A case study of complex final products
Samuel Roscoe, Paul D. Cousins, Robert Handfield
kHUB post date: Aug 8, 2023
Originally published: May 15, 2023 (PDMA JPIM • Vol. 40, Issue 4 • July 2023)
Read time: 50 minutes
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This paper seeks answers to the question: what are the key factors that enable the scaling of additive manufacturing (AM) from rapid prototyping to high-volume production? Using a longitudinal case study, we collected primary and secondary data to trace the AM scaling journey of AeroCo, a highly innovative aerospace firm. Based on the case findings, we position AM as a whole system technology because it can print components for a wide range of subsystems in a complex final product. Scaling AM requires a significant realignment of existing, and often deeply entrenched, new technology, and product development processes. To achieve this alignment, AeroCo formed institutional alliances with the UK government and universities to establish university technology centers, which facilitated early stage ideation and “catapult” centers, which enabled high-volume testing in factory-like facilities. The case reveals how multiple functions needed to integrate, including research and development, product design, and future programs, to ensure that design changes cascaded from one subsystem to another, and that new technologies were linked to a future product to create a final product pull. These findings inform a managerial framework for additive manufacturing scaling that is generalizable to other digital technologies used in the design and production of complex final products, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, smart factories, and cyber physical production systems. Our framework contributes to innovation thought and practice by explaining how new product development processes and organizational structures change under the effect of digital technologies.
- Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a “whole system technology” that affects the manufacture of components for multiple subsystems in complex final products. As such, AM scaling requires a significant realignment of existing, and often deeply entrenched, new technology and product development processes.
- Institutional Alliances with governments and universities accelerate early stage ideation and mid-to-late stage scaling for new technologies that affect multiple subsystems in complex final products.
- Embedding AM in the design and development of components for complex final products requires the integration of research and development (R&D), design and future programs departments to ensure changes to one subsystem are cascaded to all other subsystem units.
- Lessons learned from AM scaling can be applied to other technologies that affect the design and development of complex final products including artificial intelligence, machine learning, smart factories, and cyber physical production systems.