Om 3D printning: Et feltstudium af disruptive innovationer i fremstillingsindustrien

Matias Søndergaard

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis explores the emergent phenomenon of personal 3D-printing, which has undergone rapid growth within recent years through diffusion and adaptation. This growth has most markedly occurred within the so-called Maker Movement, a DIY and grassroots culture engaged with technologybased projects and inventions manifested in physical spaces, such as FabLabs, Hacker Spaces, and Techshops. The research question I address in the study is how this emergent phenomenon both disrupts and innovates the nature of competition for the incumbent manufacturing industry. And, what constitutes the conditions for successful disruptive innovations. To answer this question, the study consists of three main parts framed by the social construction of a technology research programme defined by Bijker and Pinch. This frame refutes technological determinism and sheds light upon how technology is embedded and co-created in a social context. This way, users are to be understood as agents of technological change. The first part examines Christensen’s concept of disruptive innovations in the context of innovation studies. How can disruptive innovations be identified ex ante? To get a deeper understanding of what causes demand for technological change and innovation, I elaborate on the theory of disruption with a focus on the adoption and diffusion of innovation. Furthermore, I add Von Hippel’s notion of lead users and Chesbrough’s open innovation paradigm. The second part consists of a field study in the landscape of personal 3Dprinting. By following the relevant actors on a journey from Copenhagen, over Frankfurt to San Francisco and New York I identify four relevant social groups, which define and co-create what we know as personal 3D-printing today. Based on of the insights from the field study, the third and final part discusses how personal 3D-printing innovates and disrupts the nature of competition within manufacturing, and how personal 3D-printing can be grasped as “low-end” and “new marked” disruption. In addition, I discuss what forms the conditions must be to achieve successful disruptive innovation. In conclusion, I point out that we now see types of complementary assets for successful disruptive technologies – especially in forms of crowd-funded capital and free technical know-how from open designs - and I suggest that we might witness the seeds of a new form of manufacturing disruption. This is based on the possibility provided by personal 3D-printing to decentralize, democratize, digitalize and socialize production. One must remember, however, that personal 3D-printing is still in the making and thus remains poorly utilized in business settings.

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages185