How "Fabbing" Will Change Different Industries Until 2030. The Future of 3D Printing in Aerospace, Retail and Healthcare

Bachelor Thesis, 2015

55 Pages, Grade: 1.5


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Tables and Figures

1. Introduction
1.1. Problem Definition and Objective
1.2. Course of the Investigation

2. Additive Manufacturing
2.1. Definition and Procedure
2.2. Fabbing
2.2.1. Definition and Development
2.2.2. Mechanics of Fabbing
2.2.3. Current Market Environment
2.2.4. Advantages to Traditional Manufacturing

3. Disruptive Innovation and Technology
3.1. Classification of a Disruptive Innovation
3.2. Definition of a Disruptive Innovation
3.3. Handling of a Disruptive Technology

4. Impact of Fabbing on Different Industries
4.1. Development of a Scorecard for Impact Evaluation
4.2. Evaluation of Impact on Different Industries
4.3. Concluding Remarks

5. Impact of Fabbing on Selected Industries
5.1. Impact of Fabbing on the Aerospace Industry
5.1.1. Impact Case Study on the Aerospace Industry
5.2. Impact of Fabbing on the Retail Industry
5.2.1. Impact Case Study on the Retail Industry
5.3. Impact of Fabbing on the Healthcare Industry
5.3.1. Impact Case Study on the Healthcare Industry

6. Discussion and Conclusion

Reference List


List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Tables and Figures

Table 1: Overview of 3D print techniques sorted by used material

Figure 1: CLIP enables fast print speeds and layerless part construction

Figure 2: The disruptive Innovation Model

Figure 3: Two types of disruptive innovation

Figure 4: Step-by-step Scorecard Development Progress

Figure 5: Step-by-step Scorecard Evaluation Progress

1. Introduction

1.1. Problem Definition and Objective

Printing documents or photos with a laser- or inkjet printer is deemed to be ordinary at the present day. The necessary appliances are quite affordable and can therefore be found in nearly every computerized household. However, in recent years printers with the ability to produce three-dimensional (3D) objects caught the attention of the public. Against the background of a market situation, which tends to continuously decreasing developmental periods and parallel increasing product complexity as well as increasing demand for individual products, these so-called 'additive manufacturing' (AM) procedures prove as effective tools as they enable fast processes in production (Gebhardt, 2013). Over the course of the past years, these procedures have been steadily refined. Especially 3D-printing procedures experienced remarkable improvements in quality, precision and choice of material (Fastermann, 2013). The essential advantage of the aforementioned procedure is the possibility to produce objects via a 3D printer directly from the computer with computer-aided design (CAD) files (Gebhardt, 2013). Furthermore, almost any geometry can be produced (Gebhardt, 2013; Witt, 2006). Consequently, convoluted cavities can be generated, which the traditional die casting procedure could only produce elaborately or not at all. Today, not only synthetic materials can be used to manufacture physical objects, but also commodities from paper via metal to concrete (Baader, 2013). Bioengineers are even able to fabricate human tissue structure from vivid cells with specially designed medical printers (Mullin, 2013). The manufacturing industry has comprehended today's advantages of this technology and is using it to fabricate tools, small-scale series and prototypes (Fastermann, 2012). Parallel to the depicted technological advancements, production- and innovation activities are partially translocated toward the customer (Blätter-Mink & Ebner, 2012; Reichwald & Piller, 2009; Voß & Rieder, 2005). If processes are designed that way, an enterprise purposefully integrates the customer into a segment of its value chain and lets the customer undertake activities, which were previously conducted autonomously. Therefore, an industrial revolution is intensively debated (Horsch, 2014), which is characterized by a full relocation of production and innovation activities towards the client and denoted as the "democratization of production" (Rifkin, 2011, p. 13). With that said, the global consultancy McKinsey classifies 3D printing as a disruptive technology (Manyika, Chui, Bughin, Dobbs, Bisson, and Marrs, 2013), meaning that it has the capability to change entire industries and value chains fundamentally (Christensen, Matzler, and Von den Eichen, 2011). Based on the aforementioned progress, its problems and opportunities, 3D printing or fabbing involves radical technological and social changes.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the impact of fabbing on various industries to reveal how these industries could potentially be transformed in the next 15 years.

1.2. Course of the Investigation

First, the subsequent chapters two and three cover the theoretical fundamentals of this paper. In doing so, chapter two addresses additive manufacturing, which focuses on its definition and procedure as well as fabbing, which is covered to the most detailed extent as it is the additive manufacturing's main field of application.

As additive manufacturing is often classified a disruptive technology, chapter three discusses Christensen's theory as well as recommendations on how to deal with disruptive innovations.

Based on these fundamentals, chapter four starts with the design of a scorecard, which matches various industries with a score from one to five to each of the most relevant factors that have to be considered when evaluating the impact of fabbing on the respective industries. Afterwards, the three industries with the highest overall score are selected for further investigation. This investigation addresses the impact of fabbing on that particular industry and will be based on the knowledge, valuation and expectations of experts. Furthermore, an exemplary case study of one enterprise from each industry is conducted to showcase actual changes within a company.

The paper then concludes with a summary and an outlook on necessary further research.

2. Additive Manufacturing

2.1. Definition and Procedure

Today, manufacturing can be classified in three major categories, namely subtractive, formative, and additive manufacturing (Dunne, 2012). The generation of the final object is determining, which manufacturing procedure the process has to be allocated to.

Subtractive manufacturing comprises all removing procedures. This technique uses a pre-product from which the desired geometrical form is generated by eliminating the redundant material (Awiszus, Bast, Dürr, and Matthes, 2012). A popular example for this manufacturing procedure is milling. Formative manufacturing, in contrast, uses processes as heating, squeezing or pouring to reshape a pre-product into the desired geometrical form (Gebhardt, 2013). Popular examples for this procedure are casting and molding. Finally, additive manufacturing encompasses all procedures, which form the desired geometrical form by adding raw material layer by layer until the object is finished (Gebhardt, 2013). A popular and for this paper most important example is 3D printing (Berman, 2011; Lipson & Kurman, 2013).

Overall, additive manufacturing describes the manufacturing of finished products. However, in literature and practice there are various terms as 'generative manufacturing' or 'digital fabrication', which are used analogously to 'additive manufacturing'. Furthermore, different terms are used based on the result of the respective procedure (Gebhardt, 2013). Thus, the term 'rapid tooling' is used when a tool is produced or, similarly, the term 'rapid prototyping' is used if a prototype is manufactured. 'Rapid manufacturing' was coined as the term, which describes an additive fabrication that is faster than production would be possible in traditional facilities (Gibson, Rosen, & Stucker, 2010).

Regardless of its label, additive manufacturing produces objects from shapeless raw materials through chemical processes, physical processes, or both on the basis of CAD models (Gibson et al., 2010). Most additive procedures use raw materials in a solid state as powder, foils or wire. Based on the chosen procedure, these materials are technically assembled through specific fusing and subsequent congealing, or slicing and subsequent agglutinating (Gebhardt, 2013).

In the past, additive manufacturing was initially just used to produce small prototypes or functional models. Today, however, it is used for the production of small-scale series with increasing regularity (Fastermann, 2012; Weller, Keller, & Piller, 2015).

2.2. Fabbing

2.2.1. Definition and Development

3D printing, which is also referred to as digital fabrication describes the manufacturing procedure that transforms raw materials through digital fabricators, so-called 3D printers, into finished objects according to a digital template (Gebhardt, 2013; Lipson & Kurman, 2013). The term 'fabbing' is used more rarely but often analogous to 3D printing. This paper is utilizing the term fabbing because it does not only describe the procedure, which is reduced to the printing system, but also expresses the effects from services and availability to many users (fabbers) as well as private citizens and its consequences, as product individualization. It also addresses the rapid dissemination opportunities of business models, markets and whole industries that today's interconnecting world presents. As this paper focuses on the impact on different industries, fabbing explains the potential in a more precise and comprehensive way.

The current most commonly used techniques due to their speed and costs, 'Fused Deposition Modeling' (FDM), 'Selective Laser Sintering' (SLS) and 'Stereolithography' (SLA), produce the desired object layer by layer from one or more materials (What is 3D printing?, n.d.).

Charles W. Hull invented the first functioning 3D printer in 1983. In 1986 he patented the technology and founded his company '3D Systems' to start commercial rapid prototyping (Hutchings & Martin, 2012). Hull's printer is based on a technique called 'stereolithography' (SLA) (Gebhardt, 2013). This printing technique utilizes ultraviolet- sensitive plastic granulate or resin, which cures pointedly when struck by a laser beam. Initially the procedure was developed for industrial purposes to produce prototypes and models fast and cheap (Zäh, 2006). Since then, a variety of different 3D print techniques have been developed and advanced progressively. These techniques distinguish themselves dependent on manufacturer, material and purpose. Figure 1 shows commonly used three-dimensional printing techniques. The technology behind the different techniques is similar and differentiates in few aspects (Astor, Von Lukas, Jarowinsky, Glöckner, Klose, Plume, et al., 2013). Therefore, the subsequent chapter focuses on the general mechanics of 3D printers. However, recently a breakthrough in STL was achieved, which is also covered detailed in the following chapter.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table 1: Overview of 3D print techniques sorted by used material. (Adapted From Gebhardt, 2013, p.91)

2.2.2. Mechanics of Fabbing

The process of fabbing starts with a 3D computer software that generates a digital blueprint, which comprises the instructions for the printer about the material that is going to be used and its layer-by-layer construction plan (Horsch, 2014). Essentially, fabbing follows the same principles as a customary two-dimensional (2D) printer, except for the fact that a 3D printer continues to print another 2D layer immediately after the first one is completed until the desired three-dimensional object is formed (Revolution in 3D, 2014).

Initially, the desired object is generated virtually as a CAD file either through suitable CAD software or, if the desired object already exists, a 3D scanner (Gebhardt, 2007; Fastermann, 2012). If supporting material is required to stabilize an object due to beetle elements, the software automatically includes supporting material in the design, which is removed at the end of the process. Afterwards, the CAD software slices the digital model horizontally (Slicing) into individual layers. One has to note for thoroughness that dependent on the used computer program, the software for generating the CAD file can differentiate from the one slicing it. As soon as these layers are digitally generated the printing process itself begins. The printer starts with the first layer and, after its completion, continues with the next one until the last layer and therefore the desired physical object is finished (Zäh, 2006). The problem such a procedure presents is its speed as each layer has to be printed and then congealed or agglutinated, and new material has to be moved into place in separate steps before the process for the next layer can be started. With the aforementioned most widely spread techniques FDM, SLS and SLA "a macroscopic object several centimeters in height can take hours to construct" (Tumbleston et al., 2015, p. 1349).

However, in March 2015 a joint working group of employees from Carbon3D Inc., the startup founded for selling this technique when it is ready to go to market, and the University of North Carolina published an article in which they describe that they found a technique called 'continuous liquid interface production' (CLIP). Theoretically, the printer still produces one layer after the other. However, due to its ability to accomplish the aforementioned separate steps of each layer at once, it reduces the time needed before the printer can start with the next layer drastically leading to an overall reduction in time by 25 to 100 times compared to other fabbing techniques (Kewitz, 2015). The complex process is based on the traditional STL, however, "when stereolithography is conducted above an oxygen-permeable build window, continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) is enabled by creating an oxygen-containing 'dead zone', a thin uncured liquid layer between the window and the cured part surface", resulting in a much faster process, which was already able to print "gyroid and argyle structures with a height of ~5 cm in less than 10 min" (Tumbleston et al., 2015, p. 1349). Furthermore, the team explained that the speed could be increased much further in the future when certain speed limiting factors as the resin flow are resolved. Finally, the team states, "preliminary studies show that the CLIP process is compatible with producing parts from soft elastic materials, ceramics, and biological materials. CLIP has the potential to extend the utility of additive manufacturing to many areas of science and technology, and to lower the manufacturing costs of complex polymer-based objects" (Tumbleston et al., 2015, p. 1352). Figure 1 below illustrates the CLIP process (A) as well as finished stage (B) of the aforementioned gyroid and argyle structures. A more general illustration about the mechanics of CLIP can be found in appendix 1.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: CLIP enables fast print speeds and layerless part construction. "(A) Schematic of CLIP printer where the part (gyroid) is produced continuously by simultaneously elevating the build support plate while changing the 2D cross-sectional UV images from the imaging unit. The oxygen-permeable window creates a dead zone (persistent liquid interface) between the elevating part and the window. (B) Resulting parts via CLIP, a gyroid (left) and an argyle (right), were elevated at print speeds of 500 mm/ hour" (From Tumbleston et al., 2015, p. 1350).

2.2.3. Current Market Environment

In recent years, the global market for fabbing, including 3D printers, materials as well as 3D services, evolved very positively and reached a market size of roughly 2.5 billion US dollars in 2013 according to projections by the research organization 'Canalys' provided by the German statistics provider 'Statista' (appendix 2).

Especially the demand of rapid manufacturing systems becomes increasingly greater in various industries. Thus, the latest developments from manufacturers of 3D printers target such systems. Especially the healthcare industry promotes further research and development of rapid manufacturing, as individualized objects are more important in the industry than in any other. The demand in the healthcare sector can already be observed in the dental industry, which already refers to fabbing to some extent (Astor et al., 2013).

The presently available techniques and systems cannot fulfill all requirements mainly because in most areas it is not economical or the frame size is not large enough yet (Isenburg, 2013). Nevertheless, fabbing is already used today for industrial purposes in various industries. Thus, aerospace companies such as Boeing or Airbus are using 3D printed airplane models for tests in their wind channels and tornado jet fighters of the British Royal Air Force are flying with 3D printed spare parts already (Hegmann, 2014; Trentmann, 2014).

The prospective market potential is considered to grow exponentially over the next years. Roland Berger (2013, p.1) projected that the market size quadruples until 2023 if the costs of fabbing remain constant at today's level. However, Roland Berger (2013, p.1) also projects a reduction of process costs of up to 50 percent in the next five years and another 30 percent in the subsequent five years, which leads them to the conclusion that the market size will grow even more than four times. Canalys even projected that the market size will raise from 3.8 billion US dollars in 2014 to 16.2 billion US dollars in 2018 (appendix 2).

2.2.4. Advantages to Traditional Manufacturing

When researching fabbing, one finds that it has many different advantages compared to traditional manufacturing. First, a 3D printer can start to manufacture directly from the digital model (Fastermann, 2012; Weller et al., 2015) and these models can be individualized or changed with ease and even production in a different location or printer is no problem. In the same context, fabbing allows great design flexibility. Undercuts and other complex shapings can be produced of one piece, which offers new opportunities in regard to product design but also reduces time for traditional separate assembling. Speed in general is an essential advantage of fabbing. The most complex structures can be produced within hours with little to no remachining and when multiple desired objects consist of the same material, they can be produced parallel if the CAD is set up that way. Even parallel processing of multiple materials is possible (Gebhardt, 2013; Zäh, 2006).

Furthermore, objects with integrated mechanical-technological functions as hinges can be manufactured (Wegner & Witt, 2010). These aspects, as well as the ceasing necessity of tools or molds for production, lead to a significant time-to-market reduction. Even the economical production of small-scale series is not only possible but the smaller the series produced is, the more economical fabbing becomes compared to traditional manufacturing (Fastermann, 2012; Scheffels, 2012). Also, there is only one standardized data format 'Surface Tesselation Language' (STL), which is used by every manufacturer. Therefore, there are no switching costs when changing a supplier (Gebhardt, 2013).

Moreover, fabbing makes on-demand and on-site production possible. This does not only enable enterprises to react much more quickly to orders or new trends but also reduces inventory and transport costs. Even the environment profits from it as less transport leads to less traffic on already overcrowded streets, which means less CO2 emission (Berman, 2012; Fastermann, 2012; Moser, 2014; Weller et al., 2015).

Concluding, fabbing leads to an improvement in material efficiency. SLS already produces almost without wasting any material because only needed material is processed and any material, which is not used, gets filtered and returned so it can be used in the next process (Gebhardt, 2013).

3. Disruptive Innovation and Technology

3.1. Classification of a Disruptive Innovation

Clayton Christensen, a business administration professor at Harvard Business School, coined the term ‘disruptive innovation’ and 'disruptive technology' in 1997 when he first published his book 'The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail', which is generally just referred to as 'The Innovator's Dilemma'. The concept of the book established itself quickly in science and has been discussed extensively in innovation management literature (e.g. Adner, 2012; Calia,

Guerrini, & Moura, 2007; Linton, 2002). However, there is still no clear definition of the term disruptive innovation as Schmidt and Druehl (2008, p.1) stated in their book 'When Is a Disruptive Innovation Disruptive': "A disruptive innovation (i.e., one that dramatically disrupts the current market) is not necessarily a disruptive innovation (as Clayton Christensen defines this term)". This circumstance led to some critique of Christensen's Theory.

To gain a more detailed comprehension of disruptive innovation, one needs to define innovation itself first: An innovation constitutes the implementation of a new or significantly improved product or service, process or marketing method (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2008, p.31). Furthermore, Christensen divides innovation into two subgroups, namely 'Sustaining Innovation' and 'Disruptive Innovation' in his publication (Christensen, 1997, p. 34-35). These subgroups need to be delimited from one another: If an existing product is improved successively or technologically advances within its specification, then this classifies as a sustaining innovation. In contrast, a disruptive innovation has the capability to disrupt prevailing market rules or to change the user behavior overall. Such disruptive innovations deviate from conventional products and have a new and initially much smaller target group. Christensen describes disruptive innovation as "a process by which a product or services takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors" (Christensen, 2012, p.1). Often such disruption is not precipitated by new technologies but rather by already existing similar technologies. Therefore, the term disruptive innovation is often used synonymously to the term disruptive technology. The audio format 'mp3' is a typical example of such a disruptive technology. Originally targeting younger segments that already possessed the know-how and equipment to use it, the mp3 soon became a substitute to the back then present compact disc (CD) (Hüsig & Soppe, 2011, p.1). In this case, the disruption was not precipitated by the invention itself but rather with the introduction of mobile hardware by the enterprise Apple Inc. These small mobile devices enhanced functionality, ease of use and overall convenience of mp3 rapidly at one go. Gradually the technology was used more and is one of the prevailing audio format standards. Apple Inc. became the highest valued company in the world by combining such technological advancements with user-friendly products and became a dominating player on the music market with their 'iPod' for audio formats.

3.2. Definition of a Disruptive Innovation

In his theory about disruptive innovation, Christensen shows why established enterprises fail because of disruptive innovations and that there are two kinds of disruptive innovations (Christensen, 2014):

An established enterprise operates in certain market segments and is therefore also aiming to innovate in those market segments, as they are already familiar. Thus, the enterprise is achieving a surplus value with sustaining innovations especially targeted at their existing group of customers. However, these sustaining innovations cannot always be fully utilized by the customers. For instance, enterprises in the automotive industry "keep giving us new and improved engines, but we can’t utilize all the performance that they make available under the hood. Factors such as traffic jams, speed limits, and safety concerns constrain how much performance we can use" (Christensen, 2014, p.1). This is also illustrated in figure 2 below.

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Figure 2: The disruptive Innovation Model. (From Christensen, 2014)


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How "Fabbing" Will Change Different Industries Until 2030. The Future of 3D Printing in Aerospace, Retail and Healthcare
EBS European Business School gGmbH  (Institute for Innovation and Transformation)
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ISBN (Book)
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3D, Fabbing, Print, Manufacturing, Additive, Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, Christensen, Innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Disruptive, Stereolithography
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Leon Thomsen (Author), 2015, How "Fabbing" Will Change Different Industries Until 2030. The Future of 3D Printing in Aerospace, Retail and Healthcare, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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